The Unforgiven in the Eyes of Man

I found this “plea” in my Zoho Docs folder, a folder I rarely open.  I had long ago forgotten writing this on March 18, 2016.   I was homeless at the time, and had been homeless for quite a few years.   Little did I know that my exact plea was to be answered, four months and nine days later.   Not only did I receive the “lock on the door, window, and power outlet” for which I was pleading;  I even received the “community of like-minded Artists and visionaries”  that I was hoping would replace my homeless community.   So I cannot help but post this plea — verbatim and unaltered, in all its raw and fervent appeal.  The only thing that has been changed is that the words now appearing in italics were once in caps, since it was written on a Facebook timeline.  

I apologize for my recent mania. Although — I’m thinking. What exactly is wrong with mania? What is there to apologize for? People tell me I “exhaust” them. But to me, almost everybody else seems to be moving in slow motion. Is it morally wrong that I think and move so quickly? Of course not.  But I begin to develop a chip on my shoulder. I do not know how to express this dynamic clearly or articulately, or in a manner that would be persuasive of my case. My “apology” — such as it is — is placed before your eyes in order that it may be held distinct from the mania that was placed in another venue. I am banking on your objectivity to help me to believe that I can find words to express my position in such a way that will incur the empathy of the powerful.

This is because I, despite an empathic nature, despite an articulate presence, have been robbed of my natural power by a set of conditions and circumstances that have persisted far past the point of the conscious choices that initially set them into motion. That set of conditions and circumstances is called, in a word, homelessness. It has been going on for eleven years now. I do not know how I have made it this far. But I do know that I am not going to make it much farther without real help from someone who has the power to help and who cares to help.  So: let’s get real.  

I cannot live outdoors any longer. I mean – I can, but we may expect my life to end within the next two years at best. From eleven years of Homelessness I am finally breaking down. I, even I. No one can take the overwhelming conditions of homelessness for long without breaking in some way at some point. That I have endured this long is miraculous — especially in combination with the fact that every single person who is homeless understands my issue completely – whether they can articulate it or not – and every single person who lives indoors believes that my issue is something other than what it is.

Initially, this dynamic fascinated me. It fascinated me on an academic level, sociologically, as an item of analysis.  But it has grown to disgust me. Not on an emotional level — but on a revolutionary level. Let me articulate my issue as clearly as I can. I know you love me – and I know you have had your own overwhelming issues. And I am proud of you. But please hear what my issue is. Every homeless person I know will echo this issue. I might as well speak in the editorial “we.” I speak on behalf of the Homeless People of the United States of America.

Our issue is that we feel unloved.

Much as I know that you love me, much as I know that my brother loves me, much as I know that my best female friend loves me – and if I have a remaining male friend who has not rejected me totally, he probably loves me too, whoever he is — I do not feel loved. None of us do. We feel unloved because it is not possible for us to grasp the disparity between the love that we see in the eyes of those who profess it – the love that I hear in your voice and in the voice of my brother and of my best female friend – and the other side of that dynamic, which is that none of the people who love us so will let us into their homes, much less agree to rent rooms to us, even in exchange for good money that we promise to pay. This is a universal homeless phenomenon.

Apparently, it is thought that we do not bathe. That our clothes are filthy. That we cannot manage. We will do something horrible in your house. If this were not the case, then why are we not in houses of our own? Although we know that the demand for affordable housing far exceeds the supply – in America – we still feel somehow blamed for the fact that we are the one who got left without residence.  It’s as though we’re all in a competition, we are the ones who lost the game, and the booby prize is homelessness.

Rather than look at us as “losers,” why not view us according to reason?   Because of high demand and low supply, somebody had to get left. It just happened to be us. We feel like lepers. We are the ostracized, the rejected, the pariahs, the untouchables. We are the perennial round pegs who did not fit, despite ourselves, into the square holes of the society that has discarded us.

We feel unloved because we do not understand how all these people who love us are permitting us to persist in a pattern of life that we have pleaded with them to help us to escape.  For some of us, those pleas have been sent out for years.  In my case, for eleven years.  During that time there have been brief oases of residence that have lasted in some cases as long as six or seven months or more, before — before what? Something happened, and we are out in the wilderness once more.

What is that happened?  Why did we lose those short-lived residential sites?  It is because we didn’t want to sell used cars for our landlords, nor trim their marijuana plants. The housemates didn’t like the way that we paced the floors, or perhaps we were possessed of an annoying tick or snore that kept them awake at night. When asked to put something in the microwave, we who were absent-minded put it in the broiler oven instead. When it was discovered that we had been homeless, that somehow explained everything in the eyes of the potential landlord, and those eyes moved on to the next applicant — the one who had references and a credit rating, the one who either had not been homeless, or else was remarkably good at hiding the fact that they had. If the latter were the case, and one would possess that depth of discretion (I, by the way, do not), then one would probably have been shrewd enough to have avoided homelessness altogether in the first place.

In my case, after seven years of struggling, I finally became homeless by choice. That choice was made long ago.  Made gladly, as you know. The problem is that it is no longer my choice. But I am having the devil of the time acting on the new choice – which is not to be homeless – because the stigmata that is Homelessness radiates from my forehead like a scarlet letter, as though warning everyone who crosses my path that I, like the others, having dabbled in the darkness that is homelessness, am thereby marked and branded. I differ from Cain only in that I have not yet killed a man. But I am just as marked, living in the awful place of confusion wherein the love of God so fills my heart that I know I am forgiven, and yet I know not what it is for which one must forgive me. I know that only God has forgiven me, and suspect that only God can.  For we are those whom Man cannot forgive: The Unforgiven in the Eyes of Man. Not only that, but we do not know what we did that they won’t forgive us for. Ask ten people, we get ten different answers.

Homeless? You must be lazy. You’re not? Then you’re a loser. You’re not? Then you’re a dead beat. You’re not? Well then, shall we say, scum bag? Dirt bag? Piece of shit – that’s it! You must be a piece of shit. No doubt you are seriously drug-addicted. Hard drugs, the kind that ought never be discussed, much less indulged. You must be an alcoholic. Or severely mentally unhealthy – yes, that’s it. You’re a wing nut. Homeless? What do you mean by homeless? There’s got to be a reason for it.

Well, yes there is a reason. By definition, a person is homeless because he does not have a home. Whatever those other problems are – and believe me, if you’re homeless for long enough, you’ll encounter them all- they certainly cannot be solved until the problem of Homelessness that preempted them is solved. Otherwise, they will only recur again and again, because Homelessness feeds them. They come with the territory. We not only are homeless, but we will always be homeless, and we should always be homeless. We not only will never have a place to live indoors again, but we should not ever have a place to live again.  Through the impaired vision of America, homelessness is seen not as a temporary state of affairs, but as a permanent and insoluble, incurable condition of the soul.

It is not that I happen to be able to withstand cold temperatures and inclement weather. It is not that I sleep in thunderstorms without a bedroll, shouting “Bring it On!” and exerting mighty pelvic thrusts toward the stars with each successive lightning bolt or thunderclap. It is not that I have not worn a jacket since 1985, or that I ran my half-marathon PR in 35 mph gales high on LSD flanked by local city cops. It is not that I am gonzo. True – I got exactly what I asked for, and if my book on the subject, the book that has needed to be written for years now, the book that explains the conditions from homelessness according to an author who actually is homeless and not according to some detached liberal social worker or socio-economist or some other form of clueless ivory tower bleeding heart do-gooder – but from the card-carrying, gun-toting homeless bro in dick mode, the real homeless man, AKA Yours Truly. That book is being written faster than these words are being penned, however spontaneously. And people tell me I exhaust them?  Ha!  They ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

That I have pleaded persistently with people who do have the power to terminate this way of living for me and help me into dignified indoor situation  – not a “shelter” – nothing to do with “services” – nothing to do with a “program” – nothing to do with agencies, facilities, or institutions, but an actual living situation that entails outside the realm of homelessness, that (unlike the others) does not simply lead the homeless back to homelessness.   A dignified living situation, where it will not be assumed that I am a criminal, that I plot crimes when so visibly preoccupied – I do not – where my writings of music and text and script on all levels will actually be met with a supportive environment of like-minded Artists and visionaries,  rather than with further attempts to transform the vibrancy of this particularly uniquely gifted Child of the Most High into an impassive robot clone who serves the purposes of a sterile society consisting of those whose claim to fame is neither to threaten, not to make waves, not to cause wrinkles in time or similar anomalies that would disrupt the deluded flow of a culture gone awry.  I refuse to join the ranks of those whose brains have been suspended until further notice so that they no longer can think for themselves but only serve the purposes of the State and of spiritual wickedness in high places when I AM A CHILD OF GOD! I AM A CHILD OF THE MOST HIGH KING! I AM BORN OF THE UNIVERSE THAT IS UNFOLDING ACCORDING TO DIVINE DESIGN, and I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE WHO I AM!

And I’m tired. Believe it or not, I — even I — tire. I exhaust even myself. So I close.

These could be the words of an asshole. But they are not.  They are the words of a person who has been chosen to receive a message that he will articulate with precision and persuasive power. It is a message that America needs to hear – and that the nation, yea the world, has not yet heard. It is not that the message has not been delivered. On the contrary, it has been submitted en masse. It is that those to whom it has been spoken either have not listened, or they have not needed to hear it. Who has not listened to the message? Those of you live indoors. Who does not need to hear it? The homeless people of America who, ironically, are the only ones listening to it.

I can no longer abide the fact that only other homeless people are hearing the message that needs to be heard by those who are not. Somebody somewhere please grant me a place to live indoors that contains three prerequisites:

(1) It must have a window. I will probably need air from the outdoors at all times.

(2) It must have a lock on a single door, and a hide-a-key under a stone outside.

(3) It must have at least one power outlet.

I will provide the rest. I will pay up to $460 a month. But no more, because I will need to have a grocery chain like Safeway deliver food to my door. If somebody wants to kick down a new pair of Size 11 1/2 New Balance running shoes, it will be greatly appreciated, but not necessary to the task. I need – obviously- to write.

To write – the Homeless Message to the Mainstream of Modern American Life. What we want – is to be heard. What we want – is to be understood. What we want – is to be believed. What we want – is to be respected. We could care less if you say you “love” us — because, we cannot believe that you love us, and yet never let us in your home to so much as take a shower in exchange for money. We will believe that you love us when you begin to listen to what we have to say.  

It will take me approximately five months to finish the book which currently is outlined in a 12 – page single space outline in standard outline form which I will submit to anyone interested.

My daughter, I love you. And I am proud of you. My brother, my sister, all of you — I love you.  But I have something to say and I am going to get myself into the position where I will be physically and technically able to say it. Somebody get me out of the situation where I have to spend 90% of my time searching either for outdoor power outlets or chump change for North Berkeley coffeehouses with attitudes.

Here is the ninth and of last of my speeches on the Homeless Phenomenon in America. It is called “A Parallel and Opposing Culture.” Please – don’t just listen to it. Believe it.

And whoever happens to have gotten to the bottom of this, if there’s a God in Heaven or Beyond, that Power will bless you richly.

AMEN.

Andy Pope
Berkeley, California
March 18, 2016

A Parallel and Opposing Culture

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Announcement

I debated whether to post this announcement, or just to drop off the face clandestinely.  I chose the former, because when others have chosen the latter, it’s always made me want to buzz them and try to find out what’s up, which is not always appreciated.

Life is such that I can’t possibly keep up the blogging commitment earlier propounded.  I’ve got so much else that needs to be done, the blog just seems more of a hassle than anything else.   I really would like to just be free of it.

I’ll still post, and I’ll try to stick to the days I announced earlier — piano stuff on Fridays, and so forth.  But it’s not going to be regular, and I’m not going to bind myself to have to come up with something six days a week.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Anyway, just thought I should say something.  Life is good, I just finished the first Act of my vocal score, I’ve started on the second Act, and after that I have the instrumental parts to score.   This is just stuff that needs to be done if one has written a musical and has any hopes of it ever being produced.

I also have articles to write for a number of major newspapers who may or may not publish them.  But I’m being strongly recommended by some people who have written for those papers.  So it seems to be the door that’s being opened right now.

And then of course, there’s life in general.  Church, family, everything else.  Blogging would be great if it were a full time job with a paycheck attached to it.  But it’s basically become a full time job with no monetary recompense whatsoever.  And I have other such jobs that are more rewarding, in other ways.  

So ta ta for now.  I’ll be back when I’m back.  

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Gratitude List 1001

1. Despite being once again bent out of shape over family difficulties, I turned in my article for Street Spirit on time last night, and even think I did a good job.  

2. Once again, I had the experience of feeling hassled over personal issues when I was outside trying to work in a coffee shop last night, and then moments later, walking through my front door and immediately being overwhelmed with gratitude and a sense of the love of God.

3. Very much enjoyed playing piano for the two nursing homes yesterday afternoon.  It is a particular blessing to be playing a Wurlitzer spinet at Aspen, identical to the one I grew up with, on which I first learned how to play a piano.

4. Heard from my friend Guy, who is a pianist, a singer, and an Acting teacher.  He gave me a great compliment on Holiday, beginning with the word “Wow” and again affirmed for me that it’s hard to believe that this sound quality came from a smartphone only. 

5. Had a auspicious 10-minute scheduled phone call with my editor that may lead to more work writing articles for other newspapers where she has worked.

6. Though my ingrown or distrophic left toenail snapped open when I tried to put on a pair of socks last night, I’m lucky I had some benzocaine on hand so I could apply the local anesthetic and yank it off myself, thus saving an expensive trip to a doctor whom I probably wouldn’t trust with my toenail anyway.

7. Looking forward to Christmas Eve services at my church tonight.

8. Though I awakened at three in the morning once again troubled over a family member, the Gregorian chant I just put on is helping me realize that I really can get some needed sleep again, and that things will probably look brighter in the morning.

9. Nice to have a place of my own where my sleep is uninterrupted by external insanity and cruelty.

10. If celibacy was good enough for Jesus, St. Paul, and St. Francis, then it is certainly good enough for me.  Very very thankful at this moment to be alone with the God who has blessed my solitude by permitting me to accomplish a plethora of creative, meaningful work that no living situation in the past has fostered.  Thank God for the God of Peace.  

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Gratitude List 940

Again, my gratitude list from Friday.  

1. Slept real well from about 8:30 to 4:30, just about 8 hours. Probably back on schedule now.

2. Ran two miles yesterday afternoon.

3. Seeing Dr. Baldwin today for the first time at 11:30.

4. Really grateful for my apartment. It’s just what I need.

5. Grateful for the writers I’ve met on WordPress and Twitter who are so encouraging and understanding what I’m about.

6. Grateful for my church.

7. Happened upon this really interesting blog post from Lynne Fisher from over a year ago: The Demons on the Boat. Grateful that I was able to read it and be engaged, free of negative thoughts as to what a lousy reader I think I am. It’s those lifelong thoughts that seem to keep me from reading with comprehension, because they get in the way. Ridding myself of them, I find that reading isn’t that hard.

8. Also grateful for the delineation of Russ Harris she alluded to in that post. It’s a great way of framing it. Of course I should live more according to my values than my goals.

9. I’m grateful to have good friends, and good “guides” in my life today. I don’t think this was so much the case earlier. The people I hung out with more-or-less led me astray.

10. I’m in a good mood this morning, not mad or anything. That’s a blessing. Here’s to a good day. God is Good.

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The Blog and the Blues

For those who have been anticipating a Friday piano offering, I want you all to know that I have not forgotten.  I wasn’t able to get to the church piano earlier than this morning.  So right now I’m in the process of uploading.  I should have the piece posted later on tonight.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to call attention to an earlier post of which I am proud.  I earlier received the following comment on A Homily for the Homeless at Heart from Lauren Sapala, a San Francisco-based writing coach who has authored several fine books, including Firefly Magic, The INFJ Writer, and Between the Shadow and Lo:

kudos.JPG

I found it interesting that I was about to trash the post before I received this comment.  Believe it or not, I had actually thought it was the worst piece I had ever written about homelessness in America! Thanks to Ms. Sapala, I had a change of heart.  I then edited it four times to polish it until I was able to feel proud of it.  As I started the fifth edit, my friend Danielle sent me an email reading: “Please don’t make many more changes.”

So I didn’t.   Here it is, in finished form:

A Homily for the Homeless at Heart

Hopefully this will give you something to chew on while you’re waiting for my somewhat chaotic version of “Billy’s Blues” by the late Laura Nyro.   I hope you enjoy both the blog and the blues.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 24

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater certainty.

Q. Why do you need greater certainty?

A. Because uncertainty makes me uneasy.

Q. But isn’t the world, in general, quite an uncertain place to be?

A. It is, yes.

Q. Then how can you expect greater certainty?

A. I can’t.  At least, not from the world.

Q. From where, then?

glass darklyA. From heaven, I suppose.  I’m reminded of the famous Scripture: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face.”  (1 Corinthians 13:12.)

Q. Are you saying you would like to be in heaven, rather than on earth?

A. Well, I think that goes without saying.  Both at once would be preferable, but hardly likely.

Q. Why not?

A. I don’t know.  It just doesn’t seem to ever happen, somehow.  I mean, we can pray “thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” till the cows come home.  But does that ever really change anything?

Q. Why wouldn’t it?

A. Because the world is by nature uncertain.  Impermanent — as the Buddhists say.  You see a guy alive today; chances are he won’t be alive a hundred years from now.  Everything is in flux, and constantly changing.

Q. But isn’t that beautiful?

A. It can be.

Q. Can’t you just roll with it?

A. I try to.

Q. And when you fail?

A. When I fail, I have a tendency to be contrite, remourseful.  Or at the very least, contemplative.  At those times, I turn to God more easily.  I seek certainty from the Source of it, not from my fellow human beings, who are —

Q. Fickle?

A. I wasn’t going to put it that way!  Evidently, I expect too much of them.  I even expect too much of my own self.

Q. How so?

A. I expect a kind of consistency of purpose.  A continual adherence to my calling.  Instead, I see myself being torn this way and that, by the ebb and flow of circumstance.  My supposed calling, if I even have one, means very little to me now.

Q. Why?

A. Not making money.  It gets to you after a while.  All this hard work, for what?

Q. But isn’t the work its own reward, in and of itself?

A. Only when I’m on fire.  Only when I’m motivated, inspired.  Then the money, or the lack of it, ceases to matter.

Q. When did you stop being inspired?

A. About ten days ago.

Q. What happened then?

A. Not sure I want to elaborate.  Something in the general category of a traumatic event,  involving a near-death experience.  Not sure it would be healthy to discuss.

Q. Near-death experience?

A. Not sure how else to describe it.  Everything started spinning; I lost my center; my consciousness; my identity; my sense of self.  My “I” was being ripped out of me.  It’s never happened to me before except once when I was under the influence of LSD, long ago.

Q. And you were not under the influence of LSD?

A. Don’t make me laugh. Not in this chapter of the New Story, nosirree.

Q. How did this loss of self come about?

A. Dehydration.  That’s what the medical report said.  I was going at it too hard, too much too soon, training for a 10-K, and apparently treading the wrong path. In the smoke, in fire season, excessively caffeinated, and insufficiently hydrated. And anxious, and scared. They had to pump a liter and a half of salt water into me at the hospital.

Q. Are you okay now?

A. Physically, yes.

Q. And mentally?

A. I’m basically all right.  I just feel a bit confused, and torn.

Q. How so?

A. I’ve lost all heart for the themes I usually write about.  It’s drudgery to even follow through with my writing commitments.

Q. Why is this?

A. It’s tiring.  Everything I write about homelessness, about classism, it’s all getting stale. People don’t get it.  It’s unrewarding. I’m preaching to the Choir.  And the Choir can’t do anything about the situation.  I start to offend people with money — people with privilege.  This increases anxiety.  I don’t want to offend anyone.  I work on my tone of voice, to try to ensure that I don’t seem too biting, or bitter. But if I keep speaking my truth, it’s inevitable.  I’m tired of —

Q. Of speaking your truth?

A. Kinda.  It’s not getting anywhere, is it?   An occasional paycheck of $25 or $35, $50 if I’m lucky enough to get a two page article published.  For the number of views I’m getting on my writings, offline and off, it sure isn’t translating into making any kind of difference on this planet.

Q. Would you rather speak a lie than the truth?

A. Not at all, sir.  I would rather speak neither lie nor truth, but only speak the Beauty that is Art. I would that I would again be granted the great gift I once was granted.  The gift of letting the Artist prevail over the Philosopher.  Ever since last Summer, when I first started writing for Street Spirit, I’ve permitted the Philosopher to prevail over the Artist.  I even heard a still small voice in my head, when I was sitting in Shari’s Restaurant early one morning, that said: “Let the Philosopher prevail over the Artist.”  I heeded that voice, from that day — why it might even be a year ago, to this date — till now.

Q. And now?

A. I would really like for the Artist to prevail over the Philosopher.

Q. Why?

A. Because the Artist knows how to make a living.  Isn’t that a good enough reason?

Q. When was the last time the Artist made a living?

A. Off of his Art?  It was a while ago.  But the Artist knows how to make a living doing things unrelated to his Art.  The Artist knows how to get through a shit job every day, knowing that when he comes home at night, he will get to crank up his music notation software and do what he loves doing.  The Philosopher, on the other hand, only keeps scratching his head 24/7, taking long walks like Einstein on the beach, and being so preoccupied he can’t focus on a darn thing, other than whatever his life-purpose is supposed to be, his “higher calling,” and all that rot.   Can’t do a lick of work for the life of him.

Q. Why do I not believe you?

A. I have no idea.

Q. Could it be that there are a just a few holes in your story?

A. I suppose it could be.

Q. Then why don’t we each take a week or so to think about it, and reconvene on a future Tuesday?

A. Why not?  And come to think about, we’re both supposed to still be thinking about whatever happened two Tuesdays ago, as well.

Q. Oh my – how could I forget?

A. How could I forget?

Q. I don’t know — how could you?

A. Beats me.   Guess I’m getting old.

Q. May I be excused, sir?

A. (with a sigh) You may.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 904

(1) Writer’s Guild was great on Saturday.  I’m beginning to wrap my mind around writing on themes other than those of my recent passion.

(2) Jeremiah’s sermon was really interesting at church yesterday, filling in for the pastor.  I didn’t know he was such a good speaker.  Also, I’d never heard that emphasis in the story of the Prodigal Son before — how each of the sons at different times was treating their father more-or-less like an employer rather than a dad, and how their language not being “family language” thus robbed them of the sense of kinship or intimacy that their father was about, and that our own Heavenly Father seeks from His children.

(3) I don’t feel quite as “strangely threatened” as I have felt so much of the time recently.  And though I’d grappled against the idea of even going to church because I so hugely didn’t want to be around people afterwards at the Fellowship, it worked for me to make a conscious choice to leave the building immediately after the sermon.

(4) Latah Recovery Center.  It’s been great to have had peer support throughout the past few weeks, and I was especially surprised and happy they stayed open on Labor Day.  Also, if I fill out the tons of paperwork correctly, I can soon be receiving a minium-wage paycheck for my volunteer position there.  This perk is not to be overlooked.

(5) My daughter and I have been talking every day now – on the phone or on Skype.  Also, it appears that her sister is having the baby now.

(6) Holiday weekends can be hard, but this one will be over soon, and tomorrow things will be open again: the church, the bank, the Courtyard Cafe, the Bagel Shop, and the library.  People will somehow seem more “normal,” and I will be able to take comfort once again in connecting with my community.

proverbs 25-17(7) I think I’ve successfully warded off the Kid in the hood who tried to pawn off the hot MacBook.  Just the fact that it would even have wound up with the cops is probably enough to make him a bit leery of me.  (I could elaborate, but it’s mostly a Proverbs 25:17 issue.)

(8) Got my levothryoxine filled finally and today’s the 10th day.  Motivation is coming more easily now, and it’s easier to make it up the hills when I’m out walking.  Running with Jay D. was all right on Saturday too, though I’m still coughing up a storm, especially triggered by the deeper breaths.

(9) Downloaded the Google voice recorder to my new phone, so I’m probably good to make a speech Wedneday and correct the one from Wednesday before last that I had to throw into the trash.  Great to finally have a nice smartphone in life, and to be discovering all its features and potential.

(10) Received a positive communication from an important person.  God is Love and Love is God.

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Gratitude List 884

Here’s my second gratitude list from Saturday, after waking up from a morning nap.

1. I was tired and discouraged, then I remembered I could take a power nap at the church. Slept so heavily I didn’t know where I was when I woke, and was not nearly so discouraged on awakening, and no longer tired.

2. I prayed for the discouragement to be removed, and it was removed.

3. I prayed specifically for things to happen that would cancel out what happened to discourage me — and one of them has already happened.

shoelaces4. There was no way I could get the knot out of my left shoelace, which was a thin shoelace. Walking lacelessly toward the thrift shop was bringing back bad memories, and I really did not want to spend the $5 debit card limit just to get a 63 cent shoelace at the Salvation Army. Then, I found a dollar bill on the ground, so I didn’t have to. Also, the single shoelace they had (not the set) was a very thick 54″ shoelace, which was the perfect size. The prayer about the shoelace was answered, not fifteen minutes after I prayed it. Wow.

5. Also find it interesting synchronicity that I twice alluded to the “homeless shoelace problem” recently — in Talk 4 and in the Thursday post — and then, it happened. These things happen for a reason.

6. Heard an O.G. playing nice jazz standards and singing on a guitar outside the music store downtown. He told me the store had hired him, which was encouraging, since not everyone will hire an Old Guy. Exchanged contact info, felt warm inside. Loved his version of “Laura.”

7. Ran into Timbo at the café just before Writer’s Guild. Great guy, leaving for Michigan on Wednesday. He bought an “Abstractions” CD, which helps considerably.

8. Really great to reconnect with the people at the local Writer’s Guild.

9. Something tells me that the friendship between me & my daughter will be stronger than ever before.

10. God is Love.

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Gratitude List 858

1. In 11 days, it will be two years that I’ve been successfully living indoors and paying my rent on time at the beginning of every month, after years of struggling with homelessness on the San Francisco Bay Area streets.

2. Although I am up much earlier than the average person, I am grateful for the absolutely quiet hours when I can focus and get my writing done, undisturbed by the influences of others.

3. I am grateful for the wisdom of my father, who taught me to get up three hours before anybody else does, and to drink my coffee black, to avoid stomach problems.

4. I’m grateful for the freedom and solitude that indoor living has provided for me, enabling me to do all the things I always wished I could do when I still lived outdoors — things like make speeches, play the piano, write music, write blog posts, and most especially, finish a musical about homelessness in America that I could never fully focus on when I lived outdoors.

5. I’m grateful that if I wake up at one in the morning, I can make a cup of coffee and go straight to my computer, rather than wander the streets amid cops & robbers, fearing for my safety and preparing for the worst.

6. I’m not only grateful for the freedom to write about the Homeless Experience, but for the increasing awareness that a lot of other people are writing about it, too — people who, like me, spent years outside, and were gifted with the blessing of indoor residence, and the freedom to shape their thoughts.

7. I really like my pastor and my church.  Even though I’ve had problems, they were not quick to expel me, or tell me to go to the Salvation Army or some other unappealing indoor group living situation where I would have had orders barked at me day in and day out, and all my freedoms would have been removed.

8. Glad I no longer have to struggle with the choice either to live outdoors in danger, or indoors in a group situation among dubious denizens, in just as much danger, despite.

9. Glad that the person I am living with now is probably the only person whom I know for sure I can live with without feeling like we’re in each other’s way.

10. Grateful to be living with the woman whom I love.  The Lord has blessed me so much, my cup runneth over.  The sky is the limit from here.

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In Spirit and in Truth

There is something in the human spirit that makes people want to feel that they are moving forward in some way.   No one likes to feel as though they are stagnating.  We all want to feel as though we are somehow progressing.  When we feel that we are progressing, it seems that our lives have meaning.  When we feel that we are stagnating, it seems that life is meaningless.

Moreover, it seems that different people have different ideas regarding personal progress.  Some people view progress in terms of their monetary advancement; that is, their financial growth.  The more money they make, the better they feel about their progress in life.

Others view progress in terms of their spiritual growth.  Are they becoming better people in some way?   Are they more responsive to the needs of others?  More giving?  More honest?  Less self-serving?  More capable of standing tall in the face of adversity?  More courageous?  Wiser?  More patient?  Or, most of all, more loving?

The latter seems to me to be the higher view of personal progress in life.   But it eludes many people.  People become trapped in the worrisome cares of this world.  And many of those anxiety-ridden concerns are centered around the love of money.

Consider the words of Jesus:

“No one can serve two masters.
Either you will hate the one and love the other,
or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and money.”
– Matthew 6:24

I’ve always wondered why the two poles chosen were those of God and money.  Why not God and sex?  God and drugs?   Or God and (heaven forbid) rock ‘n’ roll?

Having reflected quite a bit on this dynamic throughout the past two years, I believe I am beginning to understand.  To pursue financial gain as one’s top priority in life is energetically incompatible with the pursuit of personal, spiritual growth.  

God and moneyThis is not to say that a person whose primary focus is on making money cannot do good things with their money. But the good uses of one’s money can take place without there necessarily being any positive change in that person’s character.   A money-hungry person, after all, could conceivably find themselves at a loss for true friends, since people are naturally put off by the energy of greed.  That person might then reason that if they were to offer all kinds of goodies to a less privileged person whom they happen to like,  then that more impoverished person might cling to them as though a friend, and they would not be so lonely.

But money cannot buy friendship any more than it can buy true happiness.   The money-focused individual in this case is not really giving of his essence as a human being.  Rather, he is giving of his excess – and perhaps even getting a hefty tax write-off in the process.

It is also not the case that if one is primarily focused on spiritual growth, then prospects for financial betterment will elude them completely.  It only means that the spiritually-minded person does not base their self-worth on their net worth.  They do not identify themselves according to their financial stature, but rather according to the actualization of their true selves.

People like these feel no need to lavish pricey gifts upon others in order to secure the loyalty that only true friendship can secure.  Rather, they seek out like-minded people, people with whom they would naturally best relate, because they share similar values and interests.  As a Christian, I further believe that the Father of Life also seeks out such like-minded souls.  

But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when the true worshipers will worship the Father
in Spirit and in Truth,
for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
 

God is Spirit,
and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and Truth.”
 

– John 4:23-24

It is a mistake to think that the presence of money will necessarily negate the possibility of true moral character.  Many wealthy people are legitimately concerned for the plight of those who are suffering.  But it is also a mistake to think that one’s primary aim ought to be the acquisition of great wealth, rationalizing that some of the money will be offered to tax-exempt charitable contributions.  My experience has been that the more I stay focused on the actualization of my true self — the person whom God desires me to be — then the more my needs are adequately met.

The more I love God, and the less I love money, the better off I am.  It is then that my words and my music best reflect my concern and my hope for humanity.  And while it may cost me some money to render these gifts, the ultimate value of this form of genuine self-expression is far beyond that which money can buy.

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Tuesday Tuneup 15

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Yes.  You are a feelingless generator of questions, whose function it is to churn out question after question, based on a logical follow-up to my responses, with little or no empathy for my emotional state.  Moreover, your first two questions are the same every Tuesday.  Therefore, my first answer is immaterial, since you will only ask me why I have summoned you, and it really does not matter what I’ve said.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I can’t read.

Q. You can’t?

A. Not very well.

Q. And how does this affect you?

A. It disturbs me a great deal.  It also causes me to waste huge amounts of time.

dyslexiaQ. Doing what?

A. Trying to read.  Staring at the pages, while my head is flying, off in space, not seeming to be able to alight upon a single word or phrase of meaning.

Q. Why do I find this hard to believe?

A. Probably for the same reason everyone else does.

Q. And what reason is that?

A. The reason that I seem to be educated, and reasonably articulate, and able to write fairly well.

Q. If you cannot read, then where did you pick up all these words you use?

A. Mostly from talking to a lot of smart people, and remembering their words.  You see, I do have an unusually good long-term memory.  I am only unable to focus in the short-term.

Q. Unable?

A. Well, hardly able.  I suppose you have caught me in hyperbole.  It’s not that I can’t read at all.  I can read short articles, and emails on occasion, and unusually engaging works that don’t challenge my dyslexia.

Q. Then why did you say that you can’t read?

A. Because I can’t ever seem to finish an entire book.  I’ve finished only one book in the past several years.

Q. What book is that?

A. The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala.

Q. What enabled you to finish that particular book, if no other?

A. A matter of threefold interest.  There was not one, nor two, but three things about the book that intrigued me.

Q. Those being?

A. First, the MBTI.  I myself am an INFJ, and I saw myself all over the book.

Q. And second?

A. Writing.  Something I love to do.  The book was about INFJ’s who are Writers.

Q. And third?

A. Recovery.  The account of someone who had been deeply hurt, and who had escaped from that hurt by evoking a typical escape mechanism, and an addictive one at that.  But most importantly, she recovered.

Q. Have you done so?

A. Recovered?  Or escaped?

Q. Both.

A. Recovered?  Partly.  Escaped?  Totally.

Q. When?

A. All too often.   In 1979 after a break-up with a finacee.  In 1982 when I learned I was too sensitive for a highly competitive position in the music world.  In the early 90’s, after a difficult divorce.  And between the years 2013 and 2016, after being deeply hurt by a critique of my unfinished first draft to my musical Eden in Babylon, when I had turned to a friend for encouragement, and not only had received no encouragement, but the painful information that this man was not even a friend.

Q. How did you find out he was not your friend?

A. In the same way that I learned last night that another man was not my friend.

Q. How?

A. It is too painful to answer.  But it might inform you what was on my mind when I tried this morning, unsuccessfully once again, to read.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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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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Limitations of the Divine

I truly abhor the process of having to search high and low for money to get this show packaged.   I truly do.   These are not the words of a scammer, a hustler, or a con artist.   They are the words of a frustrated, serious Artist who happens to hate money with a passion, and who prefers not to ever have to even think about it.   I do not live in a world of financial gains and losses.  I live in a world of Music, Art, and Writing — and whatever gains and losses there may be —  well, they basically come with the territory.

limitationSo hopefully what I just wrote on my Proposal Page will be written for the last time.  I’m bright enough to be able to discern that every time I make this pitch, I sound a bit more desperate.  But it’s like I said earlier, I feel like I’m racing against Alzheimer’s trying to get this show on the road.   I understand that $700 is a considerable chunk of change in just about anybody’s world, but if I could at least get something toward this venture, my spirits would sure lighten about the whole thing.

Otherwise, there are still positive signs of impending progress.  I heard from the lady at the University, who approved of my detailed character descriptions and suggested I also make flyers.  I found a zealous young fellow with a degree in Marketing who wants to help me with the flyers and other such details.  So maybe he can make monetary proposals that sound a wee bit more professional than the super-honest gush of laying my heart on the table that you will read on my Proposal Page.

But that gush is me – at the moment anyway – and I’m not about to change it.   I just want it to be over.  I want to get the money for the singers and the overall package, and get this damn show on the road.

Like I said, all other systems are go.  The workshop will probably begin within the next two weeks, with or without singing.  It will be a bit of a stretch trying to figure out what to do during all of the musical numbers, but you know, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  And God has a Will.  And a Way.

Problem with God is, he just doesn’t sign checks.

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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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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.   Shortly after midnight, on July 17, 2016, I was walking by the Sequoia Station in Redwood City, wondering where to sleep that night, sick with a flu, and angry.  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.

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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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Your Moment is Now

The “s-words” and “h-words” alluded to in the first sentence of the post below are not cuss words.  They stand for “shelter,” “services,” “homeless,” and “housing,”   At the time when I wrote this post, I had begun to practice the elimination of these buzz words from my vocabulary.  It was becoming increasingly important for me to live indoors again, and the use of any one of those “buzz words” would work against me when seeking an affordable rental.   A person who has not been homeless doesn’t tell his prospective landlord he is in need of “shelter.”  He merely says he’s looking for “a place to live.”   

“Your Moment is Now” was written two weeks before I moved into my present-day apartment in Northern Idaho, a little over one year ago.  It describes how I was kicked out of a homeless shelter for having caught a flu, and thereafter found that there was no hospital that would keep me overnight, and no friend or family member who would take me in — as illustrated in an earlier post.  Please be advised that I was running a 103 degree temperature at the time when I scribbled down these words.  I say that in the hope you will forgive me if my writing style wasn’t quite up to par. 

I’ll be brief without using either of the s-words or h-words.

About five days ago, I was kicked out of the “dormitory” for having contracted a contagious disease there. It’s not a big deal – it’s viral bronchitis. It is only contagious during the first 2-3 days.

Unfortunately, this has left me to deal with the situation in an outdoor environment. I’ve been twice to the doctor who says that I need to rest in bed for ten days and drink a lot of fluids.  Obviously, I do not have a bed in which to rest.

fluI petitioned for an overnight stay at the hospital but was denied it on the obvious basis that overnight stays in hospitals are not generally granted to people for conditions that can be taken care of at home. Obviously, I do not have a home at this time.

I believe that if I can stay inside in a bed for 72 hours, leaving only to hydrate and use the bathroom, I will probably recover. I am not recovering, unfortunately, in the outdoor realm of living. Frankly, I have only had a flu like this twice in the past fifteen years. The first time a friend of mine fronted me $700 so I could get two weeks in a hotel room. I paid her back according to terms, but she is not in that position right now. I also am declining to ask for money, which I feel would be crass.  To request actual short-term lodgings, on the other hand, seems to me to be only logical, and appropriate to the cause at hand.

My petition goes out to those who live in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, and to the hearts of the Greater Humanity at Large. If somebody can provide so much as a floor with a rug for me to crash on for three days only, I will provide the Greater Humanity at Large with a lot more than said Humanity has evidently expected of me.

If not, I’ll subsist as usual, and perchance even survive. But know that when I say that I have watched numerous people in my position die needless deaths overnight, my statement is not hyperbolic.

People of compassion: now is your chance. Let me in. Let one of us in.  There are thousands upon thousands of Americans forced to sleep outdoors tonight.  Some will die tonight if no one lets them in.  Please, people of compassion — Let Us In.

Andy Pope
July 13, 2016
San Francisco, CA

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Published!

To those of you who might be more accustomed to getting more substantial pieces of prose or poetry published in more prestigious periodicals, my excitement about having been published yesterday may appear to be entirely unwarranted.  Therefore, I will try to subdue it.

As I mentioned earlier, I submitted three short pieces of prose to a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper called Street Spirit.  The pieces I submitted were Homeless Tinge, I Told Them I was Homeless, and A New Pair of Glasses.   Yesterday, I was informed that “A New Pair of Glasses” had been published – although the publisher change the title to A New Way of Seeing.  I didn’t mind the change, however, in light of its having been published.  I also find the layout to be very professional, and the illustrations to be marvelous.  Both are duplicated here below, with a link to the story itself sandwiched between them.  

Scavengers-1

A New Way of Seeing

Forgotten

The publisher Terry Messman offered to send some hard copies of the newspaper to my home address here in Moscow.  If anybody wants one, please leave a message on my Contact Page, and we’ll take it from there.  

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

Red Squigglified

My awareness of my failings is so huge right now, it prevents anything positive I might have to offer from being — what would the word be? “Offerable?” Shucks – I knew it would get a red squiggly.

18rbgc“Presentable” comes close. My gifts, my strengths, my good points — are simply not presentable. They’re not presentable, so long as I remain unpresentable. (Another red squiggly – somebody please cue me in on where to uncheck that annoying default, so I can make up any word I want!)

Guess “uncheck” is another one. Now come on — there have got to be more qualified candidates for a red squiggly – than that.

Basically, this morning, I feel that this techno-culture is going to place a red squiggly line below anything meaningful I have to offer. Now if that’s not a social statement, I don’t know what is.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

More Culture Shock

I was going to remove the previous post because it was basically the “illustrated version” of a 27-paragraph Facebook timeline post, printing out to 13 pages (1 1/2 spaced) on a Word doc, and I didn’t expect anyone to bother to read a post that lengthy on either site.  The only reason I wrote it in the first place is because I was feeling depressed, and I was giving myself an online pep talk at the time.

However, four people read it on Facebook, and it looks as though three people read it here on WordPress, although I’m pretty sure at least one of them was a “likes collector” and did not actually read the post. 

It is both interesting and depressing that, of the four people who read it on Facebook, the two who decided to comment did exactly what I was hoping no one would do.  I even think that I pretty clearly suggested in the topic paragraph of the post that this was not what I wanted anyone to do.  I had said that my posts were in general “social statements” and not “requests for advice or assistance.”  So, when two people proceeded to give me advice in their comments, it made me think one and only one thing:

Can my writing possibly be that bad?

However, of the other two people who read it on Facebook, one of them gave it a “love” and the other one private-messaged me with the word “wow.”  (I wish she had put the “wow” on the post itself, but I suppose I can’t have everything.)  So I have to remember that it’s not always all about me.  People’s inability to understand the gist of my posts is not always related to my inability to write clearly.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, they just don’t understand.

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In any case, depression has been striking me much more frequently and much more easily ever since March 4th, which as you may recall is the day I finished the script to my musical Eden in Babylon.

Talk about your crash and burn.  It seemed as though I had reached a peak, after which I could only descend, when my desire had been to ascend further upward.  My doctor and my therapist both want me to try this new medication, and I’ve been feeling like telling them both to take all their damned psychiatric drugs and cram them up their you-know-whats.  The last one gave me acid reflux, for which they responded by wanting me to take yet another med, one to wipe out the awareness of the acid reflux.  Of course, I stopped taking the psychiatric med instead, and the acid reflux went away.

The psychiatric med had little or no effect on my mental health while adversely affecting my otherwise excellent physical health.  I just do not understand why a person would ever want to take a psychiatric drug unless they absolutely needed to. Psychiatric drugs lost me a $50,000 annual income, a car, and a house in the year 2004, only because I still believed anyone who wore a badge.

As far as my piano-vocal score, I made it about halfway through the Opening Number during the first week of my plan to work twenty hours a week on it and get it all done before October 1st.  Though the task was not as tedious as I’d expected, nor did it feel as much like drudgery as I’d anticipated, I still felt like I couldn’t rise to the occasion.  I was on my way down.  There was no stopping it.  I was living in a beautiful, idyllic city of my dreams between July 27 and March 4th.  Since that date, practically everything I have touched has turned to dirt, and the city of my dreams has become a ghost town.

This is neither a social statement, by the way, nor a request for advice or assistance.  I’ll be back with a social statement very shortly.

Culture Shock

I haven’t been active here lately because I’ve been trying to deal with complex issues related to my mental health and my Christian faith.  Much of this is explained in a 27-paragraph Facebook timeline post that prints out to 16 pages double-spaced.   It’s extremely lengthy and revealing, but if you want to read it, I will of course be highly gratified.  I’ll post again with a progress update once the smoke clears from this most recent explosion of nerves.  Take care in the meantime, and God bless you.

CULTURE SHOCK

Whenever I’ve had a Facebook in the past, there has usually been a much larger number of “friends” here, and I have created timeline posts of substantial length and content much more frequently. This wasn’t such a bad thing, because it provided a forum for the expression of some of my rather unusual personal views. However, it also got me into trouble. Not that I couldn’t handle the lively debate I had in fact been hoping to incite, but that sometimes I would be misconstrued in my core intentions. Sometimes, people would become concerned about me personally, when basically all I was trying to do was render a social statement based on my experience.

The classic example in my history would be the event of having three Oakland city cops knock on my door and haul me off to a loony bin over something I wrote on my timeline. To this day, I’m not even sure what I wrote, or how it was thus misconstrued. If I recall correctly, it had something to do with the ownership of a certain type of firearm, and how it related to 2nd Amendment rights. It was *not* along the lines of my being about to *use* a firearm on anybody. In fact, I have never owned a gun in my life. But this is the kind of thing that can happen here on Facebook. It was an unfortunate event, but like all unfortunate events, it did motivate me to think a few things through. I am always grateful that God gifted me with an unusually analytical mind, because the intellectual analysis of social details is invariably far more pleasant and productive than any mere depression in which I might otherwise engage. So – call that sublimation or what-have-you. I am an Artist and a Writer – or at least, I think like one. As such, any negative experience I have will immediately become source material for a future work of Art. That’s just the way I roll.

But many other things about my relationship to Facebook concern me. They seem symptomatic of a larger ill. I am never quite sure how much is *my* ill – my boundary issues, communication problems, impulse control issues, impatience, and so forth – and how much of it is due to the fact that the world is simply evil, and that Facebook instantiates the evil that is in the world already. If so, it’s a pretty huge, multi-billion dollar replica of that evil, and not just something to be trifled with. Whatever the case, Facebook is a lot more manageable if I keep it on the down low. But I will keep it. There are people in my life who will never answer my emails or even check their email. There are people in my life who won’t even call me on the phone or answer back if I call them. If I want to find these people, I know where to find them: Facebook. It’s a fact of modern life, just like the damned smartphone that so annoys me. The O.G. is just going to have to live with it.

rotary telephoneFor my part, I would rather we all still had rotary land line telephones that had only one function. Nowadays the smartphone has so many hundreds of functions, it frustrates me no end trying to keep track of them all. My sense of isolation from humanity is completely fed and fostered by modern-day technology. Am I the only person who has all these weird issues around Internet communications and social media? Maybe I’ve just never really bothered to explore it deeply enough to learn what’s truly useful and enjoyable about it all. But it just seems to me that all these different devices, and syncing them together, and two-step verification, and all that other rot is essentially a ploy on the part of the Powers That Be to rob us of our privacy and personal sovereignty, under the guise of increasing our security and convenience. Then again, I can never quite tell how much of this is *me* and how much is *it.* So I take the middle road, and have a smaller Facebook that I use much less frequently. Life is easier that way — for me.

Life is easier for me in a lot of ways, these days, than it has been for many years. This is why I am writing tonight. I haven’t created too many lengthy or meaningful timeline posts, and it’s about time I made a contribution. The lamentations that I have indulged regarding modern technology and the effects of classism on our culture were once those of an embittered old man who assumed he was on his way out. Despite my dreams, despite the worldview about which I am passionate, and despite my God-given talents, I was consigned to die a miserable, meaningless death on the streets, among others who were slowly doing the same. I would have died, as Cervantes wrote about the soldiers he saw dying in battle, not wondering why I was dying, but why I had lived. When I moved from Berkeley, California, to Moscow, Idaho, all of that changed. The sense of culture shock, though still quite shocking, was at the same time a true inspiration.

culture shockBut don’t get me wrong. I still believe what my unusual experiences have led me to believe. I still romance the year 1975, when we all had rotary land line telephones with only one function. But it was remarkable how many things that I loved about the seventies, that I thought had disappeared for good, were obviously still alive here in Moscow. So any despair I might have felt over the state of affairs here in America was instantly removed from my system of social perceptions. I almost feel guilty expressing optimism at this time in our history, but if you can get a grasp of the hugeness of the culture shock, and of its overall impact upon me, you will understand why. I simply did not know there were any places left in America where people still trust each other and believe in each other, where the average person has no reason to suspect that his neighbor will steal from him, and where it is ordinarily assumed that the person in his midst is a competent individual, capable of making rational choices and earning his own living. You have no idea how encouraged I have been to have made this discovery.

Even so, people in California warned me that I would find Idaho to be “backwards, bigoted, and behind the times.” Even as I gushed about how thrilled I was to have finally been able to pick myself up off the streets and craft the lifestyle I had been longing to know for years, many of my friends from California would only emphasize the negative. This could have been a reaction to the effusive and sometimes hyperbolic nature of my ravings. Or perhaps they were jealous that my life had suddenly become easier than theirs. Maybe they just wanted me to chill out, or calm down, or not to fly too high. What happened when Icarus flew too high? He crashed and burned. People who have known me for years know that I have this tendency, which in modern terminology is known as bipolar disorder. But there are other ways to frame the effects of this tendency rather than to treat it as a disease. I got a little bit hot under the collar when I was trying to express how wonderful life had suddenly become, and most of my friends in California were responding by telling me to go see a psychiatrist. Whatever the case, the inability of almost everyone I knew in the State of California to simply be happy for me, without inserting uninformed criticisms of the State of Idaho into their responses, angered me to the point where eventually, I decided to cut all contact with people from my previous existence. This was a rash and blanket, catch-all decision, which after a few weeks I recanted. But it kept me focused at a time when I was, in fact, beginning to “fly too high,” and I needed all the focus I could get.

So let’s take a step back and analyze the gist of their warning. Essentially, the warning states that Idaho, and every other State besides California (with the possible exception of Oregon and Washington) is “backwards, bigoted, and behind the times.” I hesitate to speak for “bigoted” because of the obvious fact that there is no distinct race in Idaho with a large enough population to comprise a target for bigotry, other than the White race. For bigotry and racial tension to be active in any environment, there would have to be at least two races of substantial population in that environment. However, I also want to say that I haven’t really met anyone here who expresses prejudicial or bigoted sentiments. I include this information partly because of something that Julian Hoover posted on a meme recently, regarding the Trump administration, and how racial tension and distrust have increased since his election. This may be true, but since I personally am emerging from a background of such *extreme* racial tension, it’s difficult for me to imagine how much worse it may have gotten since the election. After all, I’m not there anymore. I can only read about it in the papers. But when I was there, in the situation I was in, I was constantly being accused of being a racist by people who did not know me at all, who made this accusation on first sight, merely because my skin was White. Now in that dynamic, who exactly is the racist?

soical-stigmaThis is not mere prejudice. This is stigma. It is the event in which, as the sociologist Erving Goffman wrote in his work on the subject, “perception spoils identity.” I was being judged, not as an individual with his own unique identity, but as a member of a social faction that, in the perception of the person making the judgment, was composed completely of racists. It’s like assuming that the man begging for change on the sidewalk is a drug addict. Or that every drug addict is a thief. Neither of these things is true. In my opinion, the sooner we can all relax and see each other as the unique individuals whom we are, perfectly molded and crafted through our DNA by intentional divine design, at the hands of an invisible and ineffable Creator who knows exactly what He is doing, in a manner that we mere human beings cannot even conceive of, then the better off we will be. This is another reason why I was so overjoyed in coming to Moscow, Idaho. It was the first time in years that anybody was bothering to take me at face value for who I appeared to be, and not just lump me into some box. In the previous world, I kept feeling that the representatives of a political philosophy were trying very hard to put the round hole whom I am into the square box whom I am not. They almost succeeded, because their influence was so pervasive, I almost came to believe that they were right. Had I stayed in that environment much longer, I might have lost my identity completely.

Then, as far as “backwards” and “behind the times,” I think we need to take a look at this as well. For one thing, I have really come to question what is “progressive” about a society in which people have no good reason to trust their neighbors. Have we “progressed” to the point where there is so much theft in our worlds that we turn a blind eye to it, and much of it goes unreported? When I left my wallet at a Starbucks in Berkeley, it was gone fifteen minutes later. I had to replace all the cards, and of course I never got the cash back. When twice I left my wallet in the laundry room of my apartment building here, each time it was returned to me within three days by the janitors, once with $75 in cash in it. I also bought five cell phones during a five year period of time. With the exception of the one I sold when I was destitute, all four of them disappeared from my backpack overnight, whilst I slept. Finally, as most of you know, I had four laptops stolen from me in a three year period of time in Berkeley, and a fifth in Oakland, during that same period. Two of the Berkeley thefts were strong-armed robberies, meaning that I was pistol-whipped in the process. Outside of having to deal with the indignity and trauma thereof, I was extremely frustrated for the interruptions. I had work to do that was important to me, if to no one else, and I was tired of not being able to have a solid place where I could sit down, plug in my laptop, and resume my projects. Finally, I bought a laptop from Bill at the Used Computer Store on Shattuck Avenue, then quietly left Berkeley without saying a word. It has been over a year now. I still have that same laptop today. How long would that laptop have lasted me in Berkeley? Your guess ought to be as good as mine by this point, but I can guarantee you it would not have lasted an entire year.

get-a-jobWhen I lived in California, it was generally assumed that I was unemployable, due to an alleged mental health condition, the veracity of which dates back to January 1, 2007. On that day, I made the two biggest mistakes I have ever made in my entire life. Both mistakes were a direct result of my having bought into the lie that I was unemployable. The first mistake was that I placed myself on Social Security Disability Income at a time in my life when I was easily young enough to be working – and was, in fact (unbeknownst to them) still working. To what degree this was a “scam” of mine, I honestly cannot say. Most of us are glad to receive extra money, no matter where it comes from. But as I accepted the $875 monthly government crazy money that I had not earned, along with the $15,000 back payment that I did not deserve, I had to see the words LEGALLY INCOMPETENT placed in capital letters on a bizarre document informing me that I could not, and should not, ever work again. And, as I saw those words, I believed them. Why did I believe them? Well, that has to do with the second big mistake, which was even bigger, and which we need not discuss at this time. (You all know what it is anyway – or if you don’t, I’ll write a book about it and get back to you.)

Dealing with the rising cost of living as we all were down there, and working less and less the more I leaned on my government money, I eventually landed on the streets. There, I lived for years, desperately trying to find my Andy, and get my Andy back, while not one person validated for me the notion that maybe I could still work. Local agents of the Powers That Be incessantly kept trying to put me into some kind of institution, agency, program, shelter, halfway house, board and care home, or other such strictly structured residential environment. Only once did a stranger passing by me look down upon me, and shout: “GET A JOB!” You have no idea how good it felt to hear those words, when all around me, it was assumed that I was completely incompetent, if not gravely disabled, and in need of some sort of assisted living situation. Honestly, I still remember looking up silently at this total stranger, and hearing him shout: “GET A JOB, MAN! GET OFF YOUR BUTT! GET A HUSTLE!” All I could do, after hearing everybody else around me only tell me where the free food was and how to get a bed in a homeless shelter, was to look up at the guy, and silently think: “You know something? He’s right.”

But the pervasiveness of the identity-crushing, dehumanizing ideology that insidiously weaves its way into the hearts of every free speech advocate who dares take up residence in the city of Berkeley was overwhelming. I consistently thought that I was wrong, and that all of them were right. I couldn’t possibly be right, and the whole world wrong, could I? I must be wrong, I thought. So I permitted them to place me into all kinds of programs and facilities, only to my hurt. For whenever I did succumb, and try to take up residence in one of those God-awful situations, I only found myself surrounded by other people who were also thought to be completely unemployable, if not criminal, and I only drifted further away from my simple goal of regaining the Andy whom I had lost. I lost him when he was smothered in the maze and mire known as Stigma. I would last maybe five weeks at most before it finally dawned on me that I was happier pitching a tent in Tilden Park and quietly saying my evening prayers to the stars. In that solitude, there was a glimpse of the Andy whom I had lost, and even a hint of hope that I might regain him. But I honestly never dreamed I would truly get my Andy back, or even a part of him, until I moved to Moscow, Idaho. Here, after years of living on the streets, I had a job within three weeks after my arrival. Backwards? Behind the times? If this is “backwards,” then give me “backwards.” If this is “behind the times” — all I can say is: Bring It On!

The move I made was phenomenal, abrupt, swift and unforeseen. It seemed to everyone I knew that one day I was dying in a gutter, and the next day I had a job and an apartment in another State. Four days after I arrived here, I signed a one-year lease on an apartment. Would that ever happened down in California? Not on your life. There would have been a complex series of providing references from past landlords as well as personal references, not to mention a credit check and a criminal background check. In the process, some other applicant would have beat me out. But here, when my present landlord even hinted at querying about past landlords, I only had to tell him that they were all a bunch of lying crooks, and that if the tables were turned, I would never provide a reference for any of them. “You, on the other hand,” I smiled, “seem like a genuinely decent fellow.” That was all it took to get a one year lease on an apartment. He trusted me; I trusted him; we still both trust each other. In Berkeley, even after four months of renting a room in an old Victorian, there was never a moment when the landlord and I truly trusted each other.

And the cost of living? I was paying $900/mo. for a place just like this in Berkeley six years ago, only without an on-site laundry room. Here I pay only $285/mo. — with all utilities paid, and free wireless Internet. One might wonder, then, if the clientele consists of completely dubious characters. I can tell you for a fact that I am easily the most dubious character of them all – and that I truly try not to be. I have stolen from no one, nor would I. No one has stolen from me — nor would they. Nobody has assaulted me, or accused me of being a “racist” or threatened to knock the crap out of me, only because my skin is White. I still have the exact same laptop that I bought on the day I left Berkeley. In Berkeley, I had been frustrated that I couldn’t finish a large project – a full scale musical with a cast of 27 – throughout the whole five years since I had conceived of the idea. In Moscow, I sat down between Thanksgiving Day and March 4th of this year at the Moscow Bagel and Deli, and finished the entire thing, all 135 pages of it. I had been furious that I could not score any of the music I had been composing, a song cycle including 18 songs, and a certain instrumentation. I sat down in the One World Cafe in Moscow, Idaho, and I finished the whole damn thing, 400 pages of music, fully orchestrated. Given those personal successes, weighed against my background, one would think I would have no reason to complain about my life at all. And I basically don’t, except for one single horrible, inescapable truth:

I, Andy Pope, have not changed. Oh, I got my Andy back all right – and when I got him back, he was same arrogant, obstinate, stubborn, touchy, finicky, over-talkative, over-sensitive, boundary-breaking, foot-in-the-mouth son-of-a-gun that he always was and probably always will be. (Guess it’s the DNA I was gushing about, and maybe a little of that “divine design.”)

change-231x300I need to change. If I cannot change my heart, which is deceitful above all things, than I at least have to change my approach. Everything that happened before I left my church job on April 15th was stuff that could have easily happened down there, were it not for my circumstances. But I never changed inside of me. I didn’t even try to. I didn’t want to. All that happened was that I got to show my good side for a change, to myself, and to a bunch of other people whom one year ago, I never dreamed I’d have met. But that’s not enough in the long haul. The reasons why my job began to frustrate me were no different than they have ever been in the past, except for maybe that I’m older now, and my ability to roll with the punches of normal workaday stress is even more diminished. I’ve always been too sensitive. I’ve always been too absent-minded. I’ve always stressed out too easily over things that weren’t stressing the others out, leaving them wondering what the problem was. But to move from those relatively minor shortcomings to LEGALLY INCOMPETENT was a big mistake! All it did was to erode my confidence even further, in an atmosphere where everybody around me believed it, and I dared not think they all were wrong. Believing that lie has led me nowhere but to the unenviable position of unemployment in which I find myself tonight.

In the past three months, I have watched myself do everything I have ever done anywhere else in the world in order to shoot myself in the foot. I have committed the same sins I have committed at any other time in my past, whenever I have “crashed and burned,” and in so doing, inexplicably destroyed everything it had taken me months to build up. But what is different is the type of responses I’ve been getting from people in the community here. I have been stopped by cops three times over situations that, had I remained in California, nobody would have cared about. This is great. It means that I am getting wake-up calls for the very same things that would have been completely dismissed down in a State where the jails are too overcrowded for the cops to care. I have had a lady approach me to tell me that she saw a private message I sent to her son and had told him to delete me from his friends list. This is also great. Now I might start being a lot more careful about who I accept as a Facebook friend, and what I say in a private message. I have learned that personal emails I’d sent of a highly sensitive nature, erratic emails that I sent when I was in a volatile state, were shared by the recipient with her associates. This is even greater. Maybe now I will finally be able to address my perennial “email problem,” because in the past whenever I have sent such emails, everybody ignored them, and nobody even cared enough to call me on my stuff. But the most painful thing of all was the sudden rejection I received from a young friend whom I genuinely loved, when he inexplicably blocked me and made communication with him impossible, immediately after informing me that these emails, not intended for him in the first place, had been shared with him. But something stood out in all the mysterious things he was suddenly saying about me. It was his cryptic statement: “You only care about one thing.”

Of all the totally weird things that have happened to me in the past three months, things that would never have happened in California, that was the weirdest and by far the most hurtful. It has been almost impossible to find anything positive about somebody whom I loved absolutely refusing to talk to me, for reasons about which I can only speculate. But for anybody who knows me at all to declare that I “only care about one thing” is a total red flag. It’s a bigger wake-up than any of the other things that have thrown me off balance in the past three months, at a time when my main focus has been trying to regain my balance. The truth is that, in a sense, there actually is only One Thing that I care about. Any caring I might have for anything else stems from that One Thing. And yet, I am completely negligent in letting anyone know what that One Thing is. Most people don’t even want to hear about it, but the plain truth is this. If I don’t start being more vocal about my Christian faith, then the second of the two mistakes I made on January 1, 2007 will rear its head again, for the fifth time in the past three months. In that event, any words I may speak pertaining to the Person of Jesus Christ will be completely ineffective, if not ludicrous and disgusting. And as for Stigma, my avowed nemesis? I can only be grateful to have finally learned just how unscrupulous and indiscriminate my enemy can be. Stigma marches militantly through the narrow minds of the deluded and the depraved, like a ruthless crusader on a quest to rob each and every person on earth of their true and valid, God-given unique identities. If I thought Stigma was my mortal enemy in Berkeley, I had no idea how lethal it would be up here in Moscow. I will attack that monster with all my strength, before it kills me, and every word I write will in some way address its poisons, until I finally get my message across. As I said, every negative thing that happens in my life immediately becomes source material for my Art — and this one is just about as negative as they come.

After informing me that I “only care about one thing,” the young man also very kindly suggested that I ought to save up my money and move back to Berkeley to be closer to my daughter. It was a nice sentiment, and I know that when he said that, he was remembering that I also care very deeply for my daughter. But I have to tell anyone who has bothered to read this whole thing that I am not about to go back to Berkeley. After all the things I just told you (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg) why would I? Sure, I miss my friends from California, people who have known me since the 70’s I so fondly revere, people with whom I hope to always retain contact. But that doesn’t mean I am going to move back to the dangerous, costly, life-threatening situation that I have just now attempted to describe. In California, generally speaking, if I had a problem, everybody ignored me. They decided that it was my stuff, and that I had to work it out on my own, or at best, at their most compassionate, they referred me to some agency that would help me deal with it, claiming that they did not have the personal expertise to address my issue. As near as I can see, if I have a problem here in Idaho, everybody rushes up at me and gets totally in my face about it. I would say that I honestly don’t know which is worse, but that would be total bullshit. It’s a lot better to feel cared about, even if the caring is misplaced or misguided, than to feel as though nobody cares about you at all. So once again, thank God I am in Moscow, Idaho. I was born here, and I will die here, so help me God.

The difference between Moscow and any other city where I have attempted to live is this. By and large, except for a few minor, regrettable events, you guys have not tried to put me in a box. All of you, Paul and Niko and anyone else with whom I’ve talked to any meaningful extent, have obviously accepted me for who I am. This may seem very normal and commonplace to you here in Moscow, but outside of a few close friendships, it’s not something that I have in my experience. Whenever I was asked to resign a job at a Christian church, it was with the strong inference that they did not believe I was a Christian. And yet, my friend Danielle with whom I would talk every day on the Internet, had no doubt that I am a Christian. And this woman is easily one of the strongest Christians I’ve ever met. So what’s up with that? If, in my earlier exuberance for my new life here, people couldn’t even tell that I’m a Christian, then that’s a pretty huge problem — and I will definitely make sure I do something about *that.* A large part of being a Christian is to identify as such, and to let people know about it. It’s a difficult thing to do in a world that has disdain for Christians, but it is a necessary thing. It lets people know where you stand, and it keeps you from falling into sinful practices that could easily ensnare you if you are leading people to believe that you’re all right with those practices. I have to remember that Jesus warned us all that the world would hate us because of our beliefs. He said that the day would come when those who killed us would earnestly believe that they were serving God in the process. But he also said that if they hate us, to remember that they hated Him, before they hated us. They hated Him enough to nail Him to a Cross and force Him to endure the mockeries of those who tortured Him to death, while He was in the process of performing the greatest act of self-sacrificial love that has ever been accomplished in the history of the world. Had He not done that, I for one would be burning in hell. If you don’t believe this, that is perfectly understandable. There was a time when I didn’t believe it either. But there came a time when I reflected, and I realized the truth in it, as well as the power. Maybe that time will one day come for you as well.

View from northeastWhen I left the church job that I had somehow managed to keep for nine months, despite my alleged incompetence, I was discouraged. But again, the discouragement was overpowered by the essential difference between Moscow, Idaho and any other city where I have attempted to live. I was not rejected for blowing my gig. I was not ostracized or abandoned or deserted at a trying time in my life. I did not leave a church – I only left a job. As far as my faith is concerned, Moscow First Presbyterian Church is my home. If I made a mistake in Berkeley, if I messed up somehow, I woke up in the presence of other people who had fallen into the same hole as myself, many of whom were making the same kinds of mistakes that I was making, and many of whom did not care. That kind of environment offered me no incentive to rectify my error. If I make a mistake in Moscow, I awaken to a beautiful city that has received me when I was at my best, and that has every reason to deserve my best. If, at some earlier time in my life, I could not tell how much of it was *me* and how much of it was *it,* then it might well have been because my self-esteem was so low, that I really could not tell how much of it actually *was* it, and how relatively little of it actually was “me.* Here, the disparity is much more glaring. I think I can honestly tell how much of it is me (a lot) and how much is *it* — (relatively little).

You see, I am a Christian. Part of being a Christian is to recognize that our true home is in heaven, and that we are all pilgrims and strangers on the earth. Our true body is a spiritual body, that we already have in heaven, and that will be made manifest instantly at the moment of our deaths, when we finally shed this fleshly body, which is only temporary. We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. I think this sentiment is prevalent among all the major religions, the perusal of which I also enjoy. But I remain a Christian, and Jesus Christ is central in my life — or if He’s not, He should be. But like Icarus, when I was flying higher than I’d ever flown in my life, I almost thought I had literally died and gone to heaven. But no way had I died and gone to heaven – I had only moved to Moscow. As a military brat and a lifelong wanderer, I have lived in so many different cities. They all have their different pros and cons. But as a Christian, I believe the words of Hebrews 13 and all the other Scriptures hat I clandestinely have referenced in this post: “We have no continuing city – but we seek one that is to come.”

My true home is not any of the cities or states I have been talking about. My true home is in heaven, where my place has been secured before the foundation of the world. I err when I empower Moscow to such a degree that its positive power becomes akin to that of God’s. I err when I think that Moscow will overpower or overwhelm me if I stay, and that I must then move — to where, exactly? Where else do I go? And when I go there, what will I find? I will only find the same arrogant, obstinate, stubborn, touchy, finicky, over-talkative, over-sensitive, boundary-breaking, foot-in-the-mouth son-of-a-gun that I always was and probably always will be. If I give this city so much power that I feel I must escape it, then I only rob power from the One who has all the power. So why should I empower any person in this city more than I empower God? I know these words may make no sense at all to anyone who is not a believer, but I write them in the hope that they make sense to somebody other than myself. It is God who effected the change that was “phenomenal, abrupt, swift and unforeseen.” I could not possibly have effected such an enormous transition on my own power, without invisible, superhuman, supernatural aid. It is He who snatched me up so suddenly out of all of that chaos, and plopped me down onto Friendship Square on July of 2016 — just the same way that He took me out of an untenable situation in Antioch, CA in September 1990, and I suddenly found myself in Burlingame CA in a three piece suit at a piano job that I was able to keep for nine more years. At no other times in my life has anything like that happened. I could not possibly have created all the sudden conditions that would enable such a dramatic shift of circumstance on my own. It is not a coincidence that I am here. If I were to move, I basically would be denying my faith in the very God in whom I try to put my trust — the very same God I initially thanked so much for putting me here – the God whom I need in order to live, without Whom I am nothing.

homeless-sign-3In the final analysis, God is the One Thing I ought to be caring about. Any caring I might have toward any other human being will then only result from the caring I have toward God. So, if I am to care about God, then I need to ask myself: has God told me to leave this city, just because times have gotten hard, and I am beginning to fall into old patterns that I had hoped to leave behind me for good? After blasting me with so huge a blessing as this, why would God be telling me to go anywhere else at all? You see, all my life I have moved around, first as a military dependent, then as an itinerant theatre person accepting jobs at different regional theatres, and finally as a confused, compulsive, chronic relocator who couldn’t seem to settle down for the life of him. So if I might have mouthed off lately about going back to Berkeley and sleeping on a stairwell while making meager bucks and an occasional slice of pizza flying a sign on a sidewalk, please know that any such sentiment stems from self-delusion and despair — not from any values I would truly wish to cultivate and embrace. I can only thank the Lord that all the insanity of that negativity has provided not only source material for my own Art, but for the ever-evolving, enduring work of Art that is continually being created by the most brilliant Artist of them all. Who am I to challenge the ultimate, perfected Artistry of the Divine?

Nothing in God’s Universe happens by accident. All things work out for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. It is not a coincidence that my sister saw the piano on which I learned how to play being wheeled out of the van of a door-to-door piano salesman in Moscow, Idaho, in the year 1953 when I was in my mother’s womb. It is not a coincidence that Idaho Repertory Theatre was founded in Moscow, Idaho in 1953, the year I was born. It is not a coincidence that there is a school of Reformed Theology directly across the street from me, and that the name of that school is “New Saint Andrews College.” My friends have been calling me “Saint Andrew” ever since. It is not a coincidence to have gotten into long-distance running, and to find that there is a running shoe store on the very corner of the building where I live. It is not a coincidence to have found out from my sister, God rest her soul, where to find the house where I was born, and that in walking up to that house, the cross-street read “HOME STREET.” Most of all, it is not a coincidence that although I only lived here for the first year of my life, I came back in my 63rd year to see what this town was like, and I loved it so much, it almost seemed custom-designed for me. To leave this beautiful city, only because I began to have the same problems I have had in every other city, everywhere else I have tried to live, for the past 34 years of my life, would truly to be to kick a gift horse in the mouth, don’t you think? Far better it will be to remain here, and actually deal with those problems, rather than continue to escape from them.

II was born in Moscow, Idaho, and there’s a good chance I will die in Moscow Idaho. Now how beautiful of a creation is that? Glory, I say therefore: Glory! Glory to God on High! I thank God that if I seek love, I now know where love can be found. If I looked for love in the “wrong places,” I need do so no longer — because I know where the Right Place is. Glory to the One who loves the unlovable. Glory to the Name of God.

Andy Pope
Moscow, Idaho
July 20, 2017

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A New Pair of Glasses

The first time in my life that I had ever lost a pair of glasses was on May 20, 2004, when I awoke in Golden Gate Park and realized that I had casually tossed my glasses down in the foliage when I was about to go to sleep the previous night. I and another person spent about a half hour trying to find them, then concluded they were lost. Since I had only been homeless since April 1, 2004, I had not yet come to terms with the many subtle nuances that would distinguish my homeless life from my previous life. Losing a pair of glasses is one of them.

When I lived in a house, I might have casually tossed my glasses onto the rug of my bedroom floor. I might have spent a few minutes looking for them, possibly even more than a few minutes, depending on the nature of the toss and the location of the landing. But once I had found them, I could not truthfully claim to have lost them. I had only misplaced them. The $300 pair of corrective reading glasses that I lost on that morning can never be replaced.

This is telling. Homelessness is not about misplacement. It’s about loss. In some cases — in my case, for example — deep loss. Loss that a person doesn’t get over very easily. In some cases, they might not get over it in an entire lifetime. In my case? Well, the jury is still out.

As I walked toward a certain cafe that morning where another homeless person was going to buy me a cup of coffee, I told myself: “Now I really *have* to do something about my situation! I’ve got to stop being homeless before this gets any worse. All kinds of things have been happening since I’ve been homeless that I could never have predicted would happen. Problems that used to take me five or ten minutes to solve have been setting me back for days.”

But then I thought: “How do I stop being homeless?”

I did not know the answer then, and I do not know it now. That was twelve years ago. Now is now. You cannot imagine the number of “subtle nuances” that have accumulated in those twelve years. If I became cold when I lived in a house, I turned on the heater. It took me less than one minute.

If I become cold now, I go about town looking for extra layers of clothing outside the good will stores, in the “drop boxes.” and on the ground. And remember – there are about a thousand other homeless people living in this city. Many of them are very much like me, and so many of them are doing the exact same thing. We fight each other over a pair of pants. It can literally take me days to turn coldness into warmth. Sometimes you don’t even bother. You’re starting to become hardened. You’re tired of fighting another homeless person for the only sweatshirt in your size.

This, too, is telling. Homelessness is not about warmth – it’s about coldness. It’s about discovering that your lifelong friends and family members, the very people whom you thought were truly supportive of you, are suddenly very leery of you. They won’t take your truthful statements at face value anymore. They keep looking for the “reason” why you’re homeless, and in so doing completely ignore the obvious fact that you are homeless because you don’t have a home.

So you turn to them for support, just the way you always used to, in the hope that they might help you to find a home, just the way they always used to help you help you deal with a difficult co-worker or help you after the break-up of a relationship. They cannot seem to imagine that all these problems you are having are the result of the conditions of homelessness, and not the cause. They find that while you always used to be noted for your punctuality, you suddenly are showing up late. They correlate this with your increasing instances of absent-mindedness, and conclude that you need a psychiatrist. You know in your heart that as soon as you are no longer homeless, you won’t have these problems anymore, so you start to feel a bit brushed off.

They brush off your need for a place to live by providing answers for all the other problems, while ignoring the fact that these other problems are related to all the “subtle nuances” that distinguish your homeless life from your previous life. You suddenly realize that half of these people you thought were so supportive never really did a damn thing for you at all. Anybody can give advice. It takes somebody who really loves you, to let you in much farther than that. But they’re not letting you in. You thought they loved you. But where is the warmth? Why is your own brother, even having a spare room in his house, forcing you to sleep out in the cold?

Finally, you yourself become cold. You thought you were warm, but all these cold blasts are turning down your temperature. The cold blasts accumulate. You used to be able to handle cold weather, but you’re getting older, and it’s getting harder. You used to think you could endure homelessness till the ends of your days. Now you know that if you don’t get inside soon, those days will be drastically shortened. The many unanswered pleas for dignified shelter accumulate. The failed attempts at getting a stint in a homeless shelter to lead anywhere but to another homeless shelter accumulate.

The subtle nuances themselves accumulate. When I lived indoors, how many times did I lose my cell phone? If I recall correctly, none at all. Since I’ve been homeless, how many different cell phones have I had? It pains me to count. “Why is Andy losing his cell phone so often?” I seem to hear them ask. It’s not just because there’s a drastic increase in Andy’s absent-mindedness. It’s because homeless people steal from homeless people. If there is a cell phone in my backpack, I can guarantee you it will be gone within a month or so. Usually, within a week.

As far as the $300 pair of protective reading glasses is concerned, talk about your “luxury” problem! I’ve been buying non-corrective readers for $1.10 at the dollar store for as long as I can remember. And the rate at which I am losing them is steadily increasing. I cannot solve this problem – of losing my glasses 3 to 5 times a week – without help. Real help. From someone who cares. Somebody help me. Let me keep a pair of reading glasses everywhere I try to use this computer. Somebody help me. Give me a place to live. Somebody, somebody, somebody —

“Why isn’t Andy helping himself?”

Because Homelessness is not about love. It’s about hate. Jesus could have had a place to live, you know. He could have lived anywhere he wanted to. So why did he choose to live outdoors? Well, look at this way. If Jesus had been living in some nice plush three-story house and living the good life, how would that have prepared him for the event that He knew was coming, when He would have to endure the mockeries of those who tortured Him to death out of pure hatred for anything so good as Him? How would He have been tough enough do produce enough love to compensate for all the hate in all the history of the world?

The thing is, I’m not Jesus. I’m not headed toward that kind of event, but I am headed toward an event that will be sufficient for who I am. Let me in, please. Before it’s too late.

Andy Pope
Berkeley, California
June 12, 2016 7:52am

lost pair of glasses

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The Mark of Cain

“Do you really need that thing?”
I heard the softness
of a half-familiar voice
as my eyes were opened.
And I saw a pair of young White hands,
playfully swinging my brand new HP notebook
from side to side,
and to and fro,
and side to side, again.

“Yeah, I do,” I smiled, looking up
from my half-slumber,
from the bench on which I sat,
just outside McDonald’s,
on University and Shattuck Avenue
in Berkeley, California.

It was still dark.
McDonald’s would not open
for another ten minutes or so.
I had seen other friends of mine
across the street,
and had waved.
It did not seem like any other morning,
as we all awaited our senior cups
and the single refills we would receive
as long as we promised not to linger
more than twenty minutes in the store,
and promptly took our first and only refill
for the road.

I was certain this was a young buddy of mine,
playing a joke on me,
as others had in the past,
when they noticed I’d acquired a laptop.
“High Top!” they would shout.
“High Rise!” – and I would grin.
But the grin of the green-eyed monster
was much wider than the smile
which which I looked up at the lad,
only to see his hoodie obscuring his young face,
like a veil, and his body,
like a cloak.

Then, in an instant, I felt a metallic force
carving a ridge into my lower back,
and just as quickly, a sharp yang,
a strike less than half an inch
below my right eye.

“Take it! Take it!”
I shouted, as though consenting
to be plundered, or condoning
the crime as though it had been mine
to commit as well as theirs —
as though having counted all the costs,
I no longer cared
that it took me a month to save up for that “thing” —
I in fact had slept outside,
when I did not really need to.
I had left a cozy cottage
in another County,
to prioritize the purchase
of the device I called my home.

Then I saw a large Black hand grab my backpack.
There went my new headphones,
a bag of marijuana, and a pipe,
a new lighter, socks, and sunglasses –
But no matter:
I was alive.

I got up and watched them closely –
the Black man on the right,
his gun facing sideways to his right,
as though informing me he was armed
and dangerous.

Mesomorphic.
The taller ectomorph to his left,
With the hoodie.
Him I recognized,
but I knew not where or why.
I watched them jog,
I noted that the White boy on the left
was a runner.
No one runs with a form like that,
unless he has been trained.

They turned off to the left
and darted down Berkeley Way,
not to be seen again, until —
One day at my Spot,
I saw them together walking past,
That view from behind that I shall never forget.

“Are you who I think you are, Officer?”
“I am,” she said, turning to me
with that inscrutable austerity
That so defines her nature.

“I know who stole my laptop.”
And I told her who and who,
For each of them had walked past me
on the same day
and flashed at me the peace sign,
which I returned in kind.
I also questioned the younger one,
And asked if I should bother to replace it,
Getting right into his face,
feigning a crazed countenance,
eyes bulging widely,
as I chided him with these words:

“Or will I just get jacked again?”
The young man never missed a beat,
but looked up at me shrewdly:
“Do you really need that thing?”

“I tell you it was he,” I told the stoic,
jaded cop with whom I spoke so candidly
in broad daylight just outside the station.

“I’m not at all surprised,” she said,
without expression on her serious, worn face.
“But watch your own back
and be wise as befits your years,
Because we know that you are of the streets
when you call it Provo Park
and not Civic Center Park,
or when you call it Ho Chi Minh Park,
instead of Willard Park.
And know that on your forehead
there is the Mark of Cain,
because for all intents and purposes,
you yourself have killed a man.”

© Andy Pope
Moscow, Idaho
17 June 17

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Homeless Tinge

I wrote this piece somewhat spontaneously last year, when the novelty of living indoors still amazed me.  Somebody recently suggested I submit it to three San Francisco Bay Area periodicals that deal with such themes.  I just received the address of the publisher of one such periodical from an East Bay minister and activist whom I hope will let me use her name.  So I’m in the process of submitting it, there and elsewhere.  Let me know what you think.

Homeless Tinge

I’m sure you guys are going to think I’m just the junkie from hell, but after not being able to sleep the entire night, I finally reached down into the drawer and tugged the last possible two hits off of a roach that had been sitting in the ashtray for God knows how long. I had a makeshift clip on it made out of cardboard, and I would venture to guess I smoked more cardboard than paper and weed combined. But I did sense the weed, at least in the first hit, so we’ll see if anything happens, and if I can get to sleep after this.

When I got a wiff of the weed, I suddenly had a flash glimpse of it being just about this time in Berkeley on a Saturday morning. I would have packed up my bedroll and stashed it neatly at the illegal spot where I slept every night on U.C. campus, then walked down Oxford Way till I got to University, turned right on University downhill toward the Marina, checked by Ace Hardware to see if Hunter and Tweaker John were awake yet, and if so, headed down with Hunter toward McDonald’s, where he & I would have gotten stoned in the entrance way to the bike shop next door. Maybe Bertha would have been with us, maybe someone else. But we would have gotten stoned before going inside for a Senior Cup, and if we were flushed, a Big Breakfast.

Hunter always had this weed he called the “bombarooski” in that weird language he was always speaking – the language in which I was “Poparooni” and sometimes even “Pepperoni.” He would have laid his whole street philosophy on me, about how each and every one of us had a role to fulfill in the Berkeley street community, all of it centered around a kind of crazy micro-economics, where everything mattered down to the very penny, and it was all about buy and sell. He’d hop on his bike after that and begin his “hustle,” while I would go sit at my Spot out in front of the Mini-Target, and stare like a puppy dog into the eyes of all passing female citizens until one of them took enough pity on me to put some change in my cup, or maybe a sandwich.

Life was somehow easier then, and yet much, much harder. It was easier in that I was my own boss and I didn’t have to answer to anybody. It was harder in that everybody else was their own boss, too, and we didn’t all play by the same rules. I would cringe whenever Andrew the thug came walking down the sidewalk, even though I must admit he was always nice to me, three years worth of nice to me after hitting me on the head with that there gun that time.

It’s almost uncanny how opposite of a world it is that I live in today. I brought almost nothing I did in Berkeley with me to do here in Moscow. And I’m doing things in Moscow I never got to do in Berkeley. I hang around professors and people whose first thought is that I must myself be a professor. I’m even considering applying for an adjunct professor position in the Creative Writing division of the English department – a full-time $48,000 gig. I’m balking, but why? They said to submit a twenty-page sample. I almost want to submit twenty-pages out of Part Four of Anthology for Anathema, just to see if it would work in my advantage to admit that I was homeless not six months ago, and yet here I show up smelling like a rose.

I guess what it is is, I’m not ready for a full-time job yet. I’d actually be afraid that they would hire me. What’s eerie, though, is that it’s the only job listed right now that I could actually walk to, and I still don’t have a car.

Life is incredibly different than it was down in B-Town by the Bay. You don’t see any panhandlers in Moscow, you don’t hear anybody on the hustle asking you for spare change or a cigarette. I remember the first time Seneca reached out her hand behind the counter at the One World Cafe and said, “What’s your name, by the way?” I had to duck into the bathroom to cry. I had only been in Moscow two or three weeks, and I could not believe that a barista in a cafe would actually care what my name was. It was too good to be true that I was actually not being viewed as a worthless piece of shit everywhere I went.

What people don’t seem to know about homelessness unless they’ve actually put in some really serious homeless time themselves is that the worst thing about being homeless is not having to endure the elements, or the lack of indoor conveniences like a space heater, shower, sink, or (of course) bed in which to sleep, or the lack of ready access to food or other basic needs, or difficulty maintaining personal hygeine, or any of that stuff. The worst thing about being homeless is the way that you are treated.

Homeless people in general don’t want pity or even compassion half the time. It seems like half the people pity homeless people and the other half pass judgment. All we really wanted down there, any of us, was to be treated with normal human respect and dignity, and treated as equals, not as inferiors. We wanted to be listened to, we wanted our voices heard. But people in general wouldn’t listen to us. They sure talked to us, and after a while we had heard it all.

Communication is a two way street. People in this country, especially in the upper classes, need to start listening to what poor people, disabled people, and homeless people have to say. They need to realize that these people are human, that they have valuable life experience, and that their experience is worth listening to, and learning about, and understanding.

When that happens, there will really be change in this country. We’ll start building bridges again, instead of burning them. With email and voice mail and social media abounding, with deletes and ignores and blocks aplenty, it has never been easier to burn a bridge in the history of this nation. And what has that done but caused the national morale to reach an all-time low? We need at some point to realize that to “make America great again,” we need to start talking to each other, hearing each other out, making an effort to understand each other’s perspectives before we just ditch them like they’re all a bunch of losers.

Homeless people, believe me, are anything but losers. Quite the opposite is the case. Homeless people are the winners. They’re winning life, day by day, against all odds. What do we win by treating them as sub-human creatures? Not a thing. What would we gain by hearing them out? Or even by sharing in their experience?

We might just gain our country back.

Andy Pope
Moscow, Idaho
6:45 a.m. – 2016-12-10

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Artist in Babylon

Check this out:

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

Now look at this:

anything-helps

I’m trying to make a point here.   Between Thanksgiving Day of last year and March 4th of this year, I wrote a complete 135-page script to a new musical.   I then naturally proceeded to try and round up singers for a demo for this project, only to find that nobody wanted to work for free.  And what was I to expect?  This music is fancy progressive Broadway show tune material.  Even quick studies would have to put a lot of work into it to make it sound right.   Such talent deserves to be paid.  

So I went about trying to raise funds for this leg of the project: $1000, to be exact.  In the past three months, I have raised exactly $100 – in three donations of $5, $20, and $75 respectively.   I could have raised more than that by flying a sign on the sidewalk.  However, to fly a sign on the sidewalk (aside from being illegal where I live), would be dangerous, as I described in the poem on this post. 

Three months and ten days have past since I finished the script.  I would very much like to move forward with the next leg of this project.  It irks me that money should be my object.  So, if you are person with some wherewithal, and if you believe in my work, please consider making a contribution to this project, so that I can move forward once again.

Just one catch.  Because I am an Artist, and I’m passionate about my themes, I tend to be a little sensitive.   At least glance at the script and give half a listen to my tunes before you make a donation.   I want to receive support from people who believe my project is worth their money.   This project means something to me.  It’s about something I believe in.  It involves a message that is not often heard, if at all, in our society.  So please believe in me before you click on donate.  I don’t want to receive money from people who don’t. 

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

 

Scarlet Letter

I’ve been having a lot of emotional problems, largely related to my inability to move forward with my work.

The computer I’m using now only has a single 1.4ghz processor, insufficient to handle Finale orchestrating without frequent crashes.  I ordered a decent computer from Rakuten with a dual core 2.7ghz processor, but it arrived with a broken sound card.

This, on top of numerous setbacks, threw me into a livid rage that lasted most of the night.  I finally got it sent back to them with the assurance of a full refund.  My friend Danielle handled the phone calls for me, which she did very masterfully, being as I was too afraid of flying off the handle at the time.

Although it has seemed to me that having left my job and winding up in much greater financial need has been at the root of the problems that have kept me from moving forward with my project, it would be odious of me to request assistance at this time.  I am too depressed by now to move forward, and the greater issue has become my mental health.   And nobody can help me with that but God.  I have a stack of unpayable bills for therapy higher than my ceiling – I only pray they don’t go into collections.

I won’t be posting in the future until things are brighter.  Maybe that won’t be as far away from now as I think.  People at my church have been very supportive, and they still seem to like me at the Bagel Shop downstairs. But otherwise, I have been walking around this small college community visibly perturbed, using wild arm gestures (as is well-documented in other cities where I have attempted to live), talking to myself, and attracting the attention of the local cops.  I don’t drive, so this behavior is particularly conspicuous.  But I need to work off all this steam somehow, and sitting cooped up in my room isn’t doing the trick.

0559918bce9b1ca7cdcf70aadc4361baI feel as though there is a Scarlet Letter on my forehead.  It will be very difficult for me to make any further Artistic progress in this environment.  My fit of rage at the cafe yesterday was quite visible, when I thought I was all set to start notating the score again, only to find the headphones suddenly non-functional.  I threw them away, unfortunately, and only later discerned it was the sound card.

I strapped myself for the month on food, rent, and computer.   I really hope I get the refund, even though I might use it to leave town.  I need to find a place that will be as supportive of my artistic endeavors as this place used to be, before everybody began to ostracize and condemn me, over things they do not understand.  I regret having opened up to so many new people to begin with, when I was only looking for a quiet life.

I had no idea how narrow-minded and conservative this so-called liberal progressive community has turned out to be.  My daughter has suggested a quiet community of Artists on the Washington Coast where she spent some time as a little girl with her mother, and of which she has fond memories.  That might be a better place for me to show up with my music notation software.   But right now, until my technical issues are resolved, unfortunately I cannot write a note.

I truly am sorry about all this.  I hope things get better from here.

The Belly of the Whale

I strongly sensed that I was being followed,
and I thought I knew by whom.
It must have been those two young men
Who had questioned me oddly
across from the Walgreens.
They had seemed so strangely disturbed,
when I merely declined to purchase
Some small item they were peddling,

in which I had no interest.

Though I thought I had been quite polite,
I feared I must have crossed them,
For I virtually saw them stalking me
From a place where eyes have never seen.

I broke into a jog.
I thought I might elude them.
I ran about a mile.
I thought I was in the clear.
So I thought nothing of stopping at the well
and shuffling through the throwaways
in search of shirt or trousers,
or perhaps a pair of boots.

Suddenly I heard a sound.
I looked up to see a handgun

rapidly, forcefully striking me
On the top of my head, and hurling me
Down onto the sidewalk.
I hid my eyes.
I felt the power of their guns
Repeatedly beating me upon the head
Like drumsticks on a drum.

“I am going to kill you, White motherfucker!
Kill your White ass, bitch-ass, dead!
White bitch-ass motherfucker!”
White racist pig!!”

Something made me plead with them:
“Guys!  Guys!  It doesn’t have to be this way!
Take everything I have — take the laptop –
but please, please spare my life!!”

As quickly as they had appeared,
they yanked the pack right off my back,
and while I watched in disbelief,

they fled into the night.

Down the stairs a lady ran.
“Are you all right?
Are you all right?

Do you want me to call the cops?”
Of course I did!

But when the police arrived,
they questioned me for what seemed forever,
as worried neighbors emerged from their doorways
and blood poured down my face like rain.
They ordered me to slow my speech,
And frisked me, shouting harsh demands,
mocking my requests for medical help,
and seeming to suppose that I was a criminal,
Or some kind of offender,
Rather than the victim
Of a crime of theft and battery,
Of violation – and of hate.

Finally they let me file a report,
which I held powerlessly in my hand,
at the Community Breakfast, before Bible Study,
in the morning following that long, long night.

There I saw the first of my assailants
Staring at me from across the line,

with pain is his own young twenty-year-old eyes,
as though pleading with me to spare him,
The way he had spared me.
And something gave me pause –
“He’s just a kid!” I thought.
And I collapsed in my integrity,
For I did not have the heart.

O Berkeley, city of my sorrow!
You care about social injustice and human rights from afar,
Yet you overlook the suffering of the one who sits nearby!
I swear I will not return to you,
Till running frantically upon your shores,
I warn you of the wrath to come,
And urge you to repent your wrongs,
Or face the fate that is your due.
For that will be the  dreaded day
Of many nightmares coming true –
The day when God will place me
In the Belly of the Whale.

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Sacrifices with Strife

I had to go back to the post The Next Step to find out exactly where I had begun to veer off course. For it was clear that I had strayed, and very clear what kinds of elements had characterized the diversion.   I only lacked a decent starting point, in order to resume my course, and avoid those elements that earlier had polluted the purity of my path, and had instead instilled a sense of paralysis and meltdown.   The deleterious elements of which I speak involved, invariably, the ill-timed and often ill-equipped efforts with which I most awkwardly attempted to enlist the allegiance of local talents of various sorts to assist me in some way in promoting my project.

First. there was the concert that never came about.  We had to cancel our earlier show when it came clear that my musicians could not possibly get enough practice to turn in a decent show by the predesignated time.   It was suggested we reschedule; I, for one, insisted we cancel entirely.   My music seemed intimidating to them, and theirs to me.  I would have to listen to them first for a while, and they to me, before thinking about making something like we had all earlier envisioned come about.  So that was rightly set aside.  Instead, I would set about to try and find singers for my demo.

This proved to be only another example of the same fruitless expedition.  It was far more stressful trying to get these singers together than it was to concede that it just wasn’t going to happen.  It would cost money – money that I don’t have, and that I knew not how to get.   As I began to endeavor to raise funds, a part of me that I hate rose into prominence, and I cannot feed that demon inside me in any way if it’s going to lead me to some of the preposterous propositions such as I began to entertain.  I was sickened with myself, infuriated, disgusted, disillusioned with my fellows, disaffected with society, alienated, isolated, self-abnegating, neglectful of my needs, abusive of my body, disfigured, disheveled, mistreated, misshapen, mortified, mutilated, and finally: majorly incapacitated.  I lay on the gurney in the Emergency Room, electrodes probing every pore, as the third EKG in my entire doctor-leery life assured me that this steady chest pain I’d developed was nothing more than pleurisy, and treatable by ibuprofen.

drawing-boardI believe I should leave the rest of the community out of the picture for a while, and dismiss any idea of enlisting their services.  Clearly, this was not the course.  The Next Step reveals exactly where I would be wise to begin.  Aside from talk of organizing a read-thru, which may or may not be necessary (or even wise, considering all I just wrote), the guidelines in that post paint a clear picture of a new starting point that doesn’t involve awkward attempts at creating new associations among my acquaintances, but only involves things that I can do all by myself.  I was thriving when intensely focusing on my music or my script, and their seeing me so thrive is what impressed them from the start — whoever “they” are, which is probably more irrelevant now than I’d ever thought before.

It doesn’t matter who they are, or even what they see, just so long as they don’t see what I’ve been showing them most recently.  “Better a dry morsel,” saith the Preacher, “and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1)

That’s the only house that I’ve been building lately.  It has no sure foundation.  If I sit still, and quietly proceed to notate my piano-vocal score, and look for reasonable revisions to be made in my script in the process, there’s something sure and steady about the construction of that house.  Whatever dry morsels I might chew on throughout, their cost will not be half the cost of what I just endured.   And maybe by the time it takes me to complete that score and second draft, I’ll have a thousand dollars in the bank to invest on hiring singers for the demo, not just trying to round up people in my midst whom I cannot pay and all have better things to do.  I risk being perceived a pest.  This will not do.

DONATE

Let’s throw some chicken gumbo soup into the microwave and make another turkey sandwich.  No sense in doing the town.  The town has just done me.

Six O’Clock and All’s Well

There are a number of unpublished and/or recently deleted posts sitting in a folder on my desktop.  I could at any moment publish any number of such posts, but I disdain because I don’t want to be perceived as vomiting on my readers.   However, I do think I ought to make some kind of communicative statement as to why these as-yet-unpublished or no-longer-published posts exist.

Recently, I gave up writing in an online diary I have kept, in one form or another, since 2002, almost fifteen years to this day.  When I began the online diary, I had only been online for about three years.  The Internet was still new and fascinating to me.  I ran across a site called DiaryLand, where I quickly observed that people were actually publicizing all the details of their inner daily weirdness.  This intrigued me.  In some cases, they would code-name the true identities of people and places in their lives, so as not to be “found out.”  In other cases, they would utilize the option to “lock” the diary, and have it be password-protected.  That way, one could be more lenient about their location and the basic first names of their associates, but the readership would be restricted only to those who could be trusted with the information. 

rantEventually, I opted for the latter.  At the time that I left the diary site, approximately one month ago, there were only five readers with permissions to read my diary.  I was pretty sure I trusted them all — but that was no longer the critical issue.  The issue became my dependency on the diary, and in particular, on the dubious practice of letting off steam or “ranting” whenever I felt a need to work through my frustrations.   While it might have been healthy to “rant” in the short-term, it seemed actually to further my anger issues in the long run.  I basically had become addicted to letting off steam.  In other words, my online temper, through the medium of this online diary, took on a form that was much more furious than whatever temper I might have actually been displaying in real life.  Many times, I showed not the slightest bit of real-life irritation while I proceeded to rage online over how badly I wanted to give somebody a piece of my mind.  In fact, it started to feel as though the diary had become the venue where fits of temper could be safely and legitimately performed.   Still, it seemed a performance of questionable box-office value, if you ask me.

It wasn’t just the ranting that eventually got to me.  It was the hyperbole — all the dramatizing I would apply to the details of my life.   It seemed I had an Artist’s need to make the situation somehow more engaging, more compelling to a readership than a mere, dry diary could ever possibly be.   So naturally, I asked myself why I should not apply all those devices to my real writing?   It just seemed I was barking up the wrong tree.

Because the Internet was fresh and exciting in the year 2002, I jumped right onto the online-diary bandwagon, at a time when the word “blog” was almost unknown in the common nomenclature.   The online diary did shape my attitude toward blogging, but I would never have gone for it if it had arisen in my life today.  It was the novelty of the Internet that was at the core of its appeal.   Because I understand this now, I am able to keep my commitment not to return to the site, no matter how addictive I found it to be.  The Internet is simply no longer a “novelty,” and so a decision I made on that basis no longer applies.

This has, however, left a void.  So, if you have found that I am posting a bit more often than usual, know that I’m in the process of trying to fill a void.  This might also cause some of my posts to be more personal than earlier.  Be that as it may.   I found that when I wrote on DiaryLand about my creative work, very few people responded favorably.   People mainly wanted to hear things more along the lines with of my crush on the lady cab driver, which bills I was postponing paying for what reasons, or how much progress I was making not trying to scratch the scab off the top of my head.   I do miss discussing such mundane topics – but as they say, there’s a time and a place for everything.   It just seemed like – it wasn’t the time or the place any longer.  It was only an old habit — dying hard, as do they all.

Ah well – I’m about to attend somebody’s graduation party.  I did manage to engage the interest in the young woman Aubrey whom I mentioned may be singing on my demo.  I also forged ahead to Version 2-M of my Long Version, before I realized that it had basically peaked on Version 1-Z, the presently posted rendition.   I feel like I’m moving a bit too slow — on this demo project, and everything else.  There’s too much precognition going on, and not enough action.  This makes me restless.  But otherwise, it’s six o’clock on a Sunday evening in the city of my dreams – and all’s well. 

A World of Make Believe

If I can possibly give you an idea of how many times I had to delete a version of my song The Very Same World and replace it with a more evolved version, please know that I routinely save all previous versions of everything I compose or arrange, and that the version posted as of 11:20 last night was Version 2-G.

This means that, beginning with Version 1-A, I must have created 33 different versions of the piece before posting the one that remains.  Thirty-three equals twenty-six plus seven.  That is, I went from Version 1-A to 1-B all the way through the 26 letters of the alphabet, then added 7 more till I got to 2-G.

How do I know that it’s done now?   Because I started working on 2-H and burned out on the notion.  You see, I can always think of something to adjust, to make it better.  What I can’t always do is decide that it’s not worth it any more.  Once I make that decision, I am done.

a-art-10274-Leonardo-da-Vinci-Quote-Art-is-never-finished-only-abandoned

I actually did not know that this quote was first attributed to Leonardo before I ran a google search on it a while back.  I had heard it from Marcel Duchamp, and also from E.M. Forster.  Whatever its origin, the idea seems to find common credence among certain kinds of Artists, myself included.  While I may not always easily reach the point where further obsession on perfecting the piece is no longer interesting enough to motivate yet another revision, this is still easier than having to decide that the piece is ever good enough to be released for universal inspection by all eyes and ears.  In short, it’s easier for me to eventually burn out on making it any better, than it is for me to ever believe it’s good enough.

So the criterion for completion has changed hands.  In lieu of my ever being motivated to come up with anything better,  the Thirty-Third Version is where it stands.

On perhaps a more progressive note, it looks as though I may have found a female singer for this demo project.  I’m not exactly certain yet, but a couple different people suggested I approach her.  She’s a barista at the local cafe.  I had asked the entertainment manager there if he knew of an easy way I could track down a decent female singer for a recording project that would involve little or no financial recompense, and he told me to talk to “Cooper” or to “Aubrey.”  Cooper being a musician might just know of a singer, and Aubrey?  Well, it turns out that she is herself a singer – and a rather good one, at that.

I knew it even before he said so.  You see, I had overheard her singing — in something akin to a musical theatre voice — when I came in for coffee the other morning.  But when I naturally queried about this intriguing activity, she merely brushed it off: “Oh! In the shower, maybe.  Just make believe.”

Then I quipped:

“But isn’t the whole genre of Musical Theatre founded on make-believe?”

That got a grin out of her, but I still wasn’t thinking of asking her to sing for the project. That didn’t happen until the other two other people suggested it, the one being the entertainment manager, the other being the young woman’s boyfriend.   Both of them characterized her singing as “fantastic.”  They both said she would be shy about a live performance, but probably down for a studio recording.  I myself am also shy about such things, as evidenced in the fact that I am even writing about it without having taken any pertinent prior action.  

Still, I never cease to revel in that I have somehow found myself in a community where the faith is high, and there’s a sense that Artistic projects will always find the support they need in order to get themselves to happen.  So all of this is a step in the right direction.   I’ll talk with her Aubrey soon; and I do have the young man, Josh, from downstairs as well.   If I can find one more female vocalist, I can probably just teach the parts and even use my own space here for the recording.  The hardwood floor provides good acoustics — I’ve already tested them.

More of the Same World

I cut yet another version of this today.  I didn’t exactly work all day, but almost.  At one point I took a walk out to the Arboretum, just because everybody says to do so.  There, it was very pretty.  Shortly later, however, I came back, and resumed work.

I finished this a little past 3:24 of what is in reality a 4:40 piece.  However, I faded it at around 3:02, just like its predecessor, because there’s a natural fade there where it won’t be anticlimactic.

I’ve been feeling angry over an attitude I’m getting from some people who knew me when I was in entirely different circumstances.   These sorts of people don’t seem to understand that their ongoing attitude is unacceptable to me.   By and large, they never actually listen to my music or appreciate the prodigy invested in it.  All they do is notice that there are no vocals, and say something to the effect of: “My time is more important than this.  I’ll listen to this once you have the singing on it.”  In so doing, they completely overlook all the detailed scoring of instrumental parts I put into this effort.  It’s extremely condescending, and I’m not sure why I put up with it.

I’m strongly compelled to equate this attitude with a “California attitude” that many people in other States find puzzling.  However, it’s more likely that I myself was caught up in that syndrome when I lived there, and I can just thank God to have escaped it.  Besides, another friend of mine, also from California, listened to this song from a sincere heart, without scoffing at me or dismissing me as though not worth his time.  Not only him, but his wife and twenty-year-old daughter also appreciated my work.  I could tell that their appreciation was genuine; then my friend also followed me on my SoundCloud.  

This is a good thing.  I’ll take the good with the bad, as my dad always used to say.  I don’t know why I get hung up trying to please everybody.  The truth is that I don’t have the female singers yet.  I also don’t have the exact accompaniment down yet, to be heard by the singers, and support them.  This, what you’re hearing today, comes close.  What I’m hoping is that I can overlook the cynical voice of opposition enough to keep moving forward.  My hope for the week is simply this.  I would like for the much-needed singers to emerge at around about the time I’m finished with this instrumental accompaniment.  In any case, it makes no sense to drop the accompaniment as a project and look full-force for the singers, if when I find them, I don’t have a complete accompaniment for their use.

The Next Step

Tomorrow it will be two months exactly since I finished an initial complete draft of my musical play, Eden in Babylon. I told myself earlier that I would wait two months before looking at it again.   Obviously, the two months are almost up.

What will I see when I take a look at the gargantuan labor of love that I hammered out between Thanksgiving Day of 2016 and March 4th of this year?   Well, to be honest with you, I took a little peek at it two or three nights ago.  What I have seen, so far, is this:

1. A number of the characters don’t quite act like themselves when they first enter into the action.  This is because I got to know them better as the story unfolded.

2. Although it is a musical, and one expects the characters to break into song periodically, sometimes the songs are not sufficiently motivated by what’s happening in the story line.  Or, if they are, the transition between spoken dialogue and sung lyrics is awkward or forced.

3. I run the happy risk of pissing of right-wing fundamentalist evangelical Christians left and right, even though I am a Christian.

4. It might be too long.

5. My plan to obfuscate deus ex machina by throwing in so many instances of it into the final scene may or may not work.   Either the audience will be skyrocketed into a higher dimension of suspension of disbelief or they will be completely let down.   There seems no in between. 

The first of these should be pretty easy to fix, now that I do know my characters fairly well.  The second may take some work.  However, my plan to smooth out those transitions while in the process of creating the piano-vocal score seems sound. 

ChurchillThe third is actually more of a bother than I may let on, but that’s only because I’m paranoid about being lambasted by others who identify with a Christian belief system.  In reality, some of those ultra-right-wingers don’t give anybody a break.  The fourth is a much better problem to have than its opposite.  Better to submit it too long, and permit the director to chop it up at discretion, than to submit it too short, and have it appear to be incomplete. 

The fifth is an issue for almost every novelist, playwright, or filmmaker.  How do we end the story effectively, without it seeming to be a wrap-up?   To be honest, I have no idea if what I have done will fly.  Of the eight or nine people who have read the script, no one has yet complained.  But that doesn’t say much.  No one has yet complained about any aspect of the script.  (All I ever hear is praise — and that’s not good.)

The next step, after making adjustments while notating the piano-vocal score, is to organize a read-through.   I’ve secured a location for the read-through, which will be in the back room of the One World Cafe.  In the time it will take me to notate the p-v score, I can probably round up the 23 readers I will need to pull this off. 

Realistically, this will take me till the end of the year 2017.   On the other hand, who said anything about being realistic?

A Role Revised

For anyone who may have been following my recent journey, I must say that as I attended church for the first time today as a mere parishioner, and not a paid employee, I was blessed far beyond my expectations.

It was refreshing not to have to be worried about what was supposed to come next in the order of worship, but only to sit in the pews and soak it all in.  I found myself focusing on the language in the prayer of confession, the hymns, the sermon, and all other aspects of the service.   When I still had the job, all I could do was nervously worry about what was going to come next.   Would I wind up in the wrong key?  Would I play too fast, too slow, too loud, or too soft?   Was I about to be heavily criticized for my failings after it was all done?  Or, even if they were to compliment me, were they complimenting me for the wrong reasons?  In short:

Did I come across more like a musical theatre or pop-contemporary accompanist, or worse yet, a lounge lizard, in the sacred context?

lounge lizardMy God – my anxiety increases as I even indulge the memory.  Be that as it may.  The “good news” is that I was very blessed to be a simple participant.  I also was freed up to attend a book study before the service, where only six people were present.  Moreover, I can go to another book study on Wednesday evenings when the Choir would have rehearsed.

I’m a little concerned about the substantial decrease in my monthly cash flow — but not too much.  It seems to me that I was living high on the hog to begin with.   I’m used to living on almost nothing at all.  Suddenly having even a little money left over after paying the rent was almost too much for me.  Ah – but I hyperbolize.  As someone said this morning, there is probably a better job in store for me.   All I need do is look.

So, I just wanted to submit a brief blog to share the glad tidings.   I’ll now return to my Writer’s Guild meeting.  Ta ta for now.

Forward Motion

Things have actually progressed remarkably smoothly since my last update.  There has not been a moment throughout the past week when I have felt that “life” was getting in the way of my artistic progress.   To the contrary, I finished scoring all the parts for the other players tonight, and we’ve arranged a time and place to practice this Sunday for the upcoming show the following Saturday.   One more practice after that, and I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.

As I might have mentioned, I agreed to continue to accompany the Wednesday evening Taize services on a volunteer basis, while no longer being on salary at my church.  I understand that the woman who is replacing me for the next two months is very capable, and I’m looking forward to sitting in the pews on Sunday, soaking in the sermon and all aspects of the service, and no longer having to concern myself with the strange conflicts that would rear their heads whenever I tried to play piano or organ properly for the occasion.

It would seem that my background in Musical Theatre somehow interfered with my ability to grasp the worshipful context.  Although I identify as a Christian, it was unusually difficult for me to shake the idea that my playing was a “performance” rather than an “offering” or a “presentation” before God.  I would constantly refer to the chancel as the “stage,” to the prelude as an “overture,” and to the postlude as “exit music.”  I am certain that a period of observation, without mandatory participation, will help me to shed these conflicts.   It’s entirely possible that when the four months are over, and both of my replacements have served their terms, I might regain some kind of paid position with the music ministry.  But I’m neither banking on it, nor shunning the prospect.   To paraphrase John the Baptist: “God must increase, and I must decrease.”

Along with this transformation, my zeal for the production possibilities of my own musical has skyrocketed.  Of the five originals that we will be performing on Saturday the 6th, three of them will be from Eden in Babylon.   If you want to look at the lyrics I will be singing, here are the links thereof:

Heart Song

Ode to the Universe

The Very Same World

I’ve decided on four theatre companies where I have worked in the past, or where I know people with whom I’ve worked, where I will submit the musical immediately upon completing my demo.  Then I think I’ll relax and see what we can do about producing the show on a regional level here in the Palouse Empire, where I have chanced upon a community of like-minded Artists who believe in me.   I’ve been here only nine months as of yesterday, and I never cease to marvel at the miracle of it all.

I didn’t have to let an entire lifetime go by without seeing the city where I was born — where I had only lived for the first year of my life.   When I first saw this city, I saw that it seemed custom-designed for me — right to the point of their being a running shoe store conveniently placed on the lower floor of the very apartment building in which I live:

friendship square

There also turned out to be a Conservatory of Music that I didn’t even know about in this town, sponsoring an annual jazz festival.  Moreover, Idaho Repertory Theatre was founded in this city in the year I was born.  And when I went to see the house where I was born, the cross street as I approached said: “Home Street.”

Sure beats being hit on the head with guns by gangbangers and having four laptops full of costly music production software stolen in a three-year period of time! I still have the same laptop I had when I moved here — in fact, I even have a back-up, in case this one should fail me.  Once again — there is a God.

There is a God

The piano-vocal score to my song “The Very Same World” is finished now.  If anyone wants to take a look at it, you can click on the title below.   (It will lead to an 11-page pdf file.)

The Very Same World

from the new musical Eden in Babylon
Words and Music by Andy Pope
Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope

I’d hoped to get three of these finished and then approach a certain professor from the nearby School of Music.  A number of people told me that he would be the logical person to talk to, if I wanted to find singers to help me out with my musical demo.   But a couple things arose to deter me, much as I so desperately desired to proceed unhindered.  First of all, I got behind schedule.  I had been hoping to have two of them done by Friday, and the third by next Friday.  Instead, I only have one of them done — and it’s already Monday.   Secondly, I was somewhat intimidated by the man’s awe-inspiring credentials.  This played into my natural shyness, and I began to doubt my fortitude.

But then, a mysterious turn of events took place.  As it happens, the professor is actually coming to meet me.  You see, the departing Minister of Music at my church has to leave during Holy Week due to the poor health of her husband.  It turns out that she knows this professor, and so she called him to take over our rehearsal on Wednesday night, as well as the Good Friday and Easter Sunday services.   So by this Wednesday, I will be following his conducting on the piano as I accompany our church choir.  Naturally, I used this as a deadline to finish the score to The Very Same World I printed it out today, and after I make minor corrections, I can simply show it to him.  So my shyness and timidity are no longer an issue.  

I also just happened to  meet three decent singers who have expressed an interest in working with me on this project.  One of them, a mezzo-soprano whom I ran into at the local pub, looked over my score briefly, then said she would reply to my call if I “posted a notice.”  Being the new kid on the block here, I haven’t exactly found out where to post this notice.  She said it with such authority, I did not want to admit my naivete.   But then, I met two young men at a cafe who were working on theory assignments on music paper, so I invited them to come look at my score.  Turned out one of them was a baritone, and we exchanged contact information.  They also advised me that anyone can audit the Jazz Choir that meets in the afternoons throughout the week, and that I could pick up a bass part and sing with them.  I don’t have to be a University student to participate.  Finally, there’s this fellow Josh who works at the Bagel Shop downstairs from me, who has a degree in Acting and has sung professionally in musicals.  He seems eager to help me out with this as well.   So perhaps I already have two or three singers.  I only need two or three more.

All of this points to an eerie phenomenon that might best be explained once it’s understood that I have only lived in this particular city for eight months.  I came here from the San Francisco Bay Area, largely because the rising cost of living was getting to me on numerous levels.   Six years ago, I lived in a situation that was almost identical to my present digs, as far as basic specs were concerned, and it rented for $900/mo.  What do I pay here in Northern Idaho for the same set-up?   You guessed it.  $275/mo.   So I finally came up here on a lark, answering a Craigslist ad, looking for a mere hole-in-the-wall where I could plug in my laptop, unhassled by numerous disconcerting factors: high crime rate, distrust among neighbors, frequent homelessness, and so forth.

friendship squareI moved into small studio in an old-style apartment building, where there are business on the first floor, and residences on the higher floors.  What I did not expect was for there to be a running store in my very building.  Being a runner, this intrigued me.  I then noticed yoga centers and bike shops.  A health-and-wellness emphasis, I thought.  Very good.   I then learned about the School of Music, and that the State Repertory Theatre was founded here as well – in the year I was born, incidentally.  As you soon will find, that’s quite germane.

The second week I was here, I applied for a part-time church position, was hired, and still hold that job today.   Before I knew it, I was surrounded by Artists and Writers of all kinds.  And as for music?  I’m doing gigs all up and down the main drag.   And culture?  I heard more decent music my first five days in this small college community than I heard in Berkeley, California, in five years.

There is more to this story, so I might as well tell it.

Why did I choose Moscow, Idaho?   Out of all the small out-of-the-way villages where I could have sought affordable housing, why Moscow?   Because I was born here.  I lived here the first year of my life when my dad was teaching ROTC at the University.  Then his Navy career took us all over the country as well as to other parts of the world.  I didn’t want my whole life to go by without seeing what Moscow, Idaho was like.  When I came here, I was astounded.  This city seemed to be custom-designed for me.

BerkeleyIn the first four months I was here, I sequenced all the music I wrote internally after four of my laptops were successively stolen in Berkeley, and I could not afford to replace them.   In the next three months, I sat down and finished a draft of the musical I had been struggling, through adverse circumstances in California, for five years.  Now I’m working on the piano-vocal score to that musical.  I have the same laptop now that I bought shortly before I left Berkeley.   Had I stayed in Berkeley, I would never have been able to retain a laptop that long.  It would have been stolen by now.   In fact, considering the huge upsurge in violence that has taken place on the Berkeley streets since the election of our current clueless leader, I can’t help but wonder if I would even still be alive today, had I stayed in this unfavorable town. 

This is why my faith has increased as much as it has.   I was so angry and discouraged when I was homeless on the Berkeley streets, that I shouted out to God:

“WHY am I always forced to be hanging around thieves and hustlers and pimps and hookers and panhandlers and criminals and murderers?   WHY does nobody care about my Music or my Art?  WHY am I not hanging around Actors and Directors and Musicians and Writers and Artists??”

The question “Why?” is often moot.  But if the desperation in that oft-repeated query could be interpreted as an entreaty to an unseen God, then the proof of the answer to that twisted prayer is in the very experience I own today.  It happened in less than forty-eight hours.   I hopped on a Greyhound, alighted randomly upon this little town in Idaho, answered an ad for a studio, and three days later signed a one-year lease.   I’m where I am supposed to be.  There is a God.

Starving Artists

Just to keep you guys in the loop, I’m a bit behind on my goal stated earlier.  I’d wanted to get two of my songs done by tomorrow, and then take them down to the open mike at the Green Frog.  It’s looking as though only one of them will be done.  I’m basically done with “The Very Same World.”  It’s all scored.  I just have to format it.

It may seem that I set my goals too high.  Often this is the case.  But in this case, something happened that interfered with the progress.  I lost a good five days.  It’s not so important what happened.  The important thing is that I’m back on track.

Also, it’s important for me to remember that, no matter how reasonable my goals may seem to be in the ideal state, there’s this annoying nuisance called “life” that will occasionally get in the way of those goals.  Suffice it to say that life was in the way for about five days, and that it’s no longer in the way.

Starving_Artist_by_EbonyLaceI also take solace in the fact that I’m not the only starving artist in this world.  I do what I can to put food on the table and pay my rent.  But I have to admit it can be depressing when it all hits you at once.   You work hard on a project for a five years and you can’t even come up with $85 to register it with the United States Copyright Office.  You can’t buy a couple books you were eager to buy — including and especially the book called The War of Art.   It was recommended to me by this writer, and I’ve been dying to read it.  I’ve even recommended it to my daughter and to other writers.  I can’t buy a couple other books I wanted, just because life once again got in the way.

Does it sound like the Poor Boy is whining?   Well – get a load of this:

You can’t find your headphones you lost two weeks ago.   Your mouse broke and you hassled yourself for days over whether it was worth $15 to buy another one, or whether you were going to continue to stress your nerves to shreds trying to use the touch pad.  As if that wasn’t enough, you spilled coffee all over your computer keyboard.  Now you’re using an external keyboard that’s about five times as loud in public places, and getting dirty looks because you learned how to type on an Olivetti manual typewriter back in 1966 and never did quite get the hang of these modern keyboards.   All this is aggravating your class issues, and to make matters worse, people who have never been poor start laying loads of unsolicited advice on you, as if they have any idea how to maneuver the various details of abject poverty.  You seethe internally.  Your anger toward people in the privileged classes only increases, at a time when you’re trying to learn how to love them. 

As I write these words though, I curse myself inwardly.  What can I do in the month of April to keep life from getting in the way?   Here I sit in the local pub once again, indulging in a cup of coffee and a muffin.  How many external cups of coffee, how many scones and muffins, do I have each month?   But then again, if I stay inside my room and write, I run dry.   I need to see people – outside of church and work — I need to see smiling faces during the course of the day.  I can just hole myself up in my room all month.

Not to mention, I’m an Old Guy.  I worked hard all my life.  True – I made the unwise error of never saving up for any kind of retirement – I just worked, worked, worked until I had a total nervous breakdown.   Then they put me on this awful thing we have in America called Social Security Disability Income, which primarily robs people of their self-esteem.

But it put food on the table before I got around to realizing I could probably still work, despite what “they” said.  Anyway, if nothing else, during the ten years that I have been on disability, one thing I have done is what I always wanted to do — and what I never found the time to do, when I was working full time.   I’m only working part-time now, but at least I’m holding down my job.   Why I ever allowed the United States Government to be the entity deciding whether or not I was able to work is beyond me.  IF only I had known then what I know now!

Nobody can call me lazy.  One thing I have done in the past ten years — is write.  And I’ll keep writing.   I’ll see my Day if I keep at it.  But it never ceases to annoy me how the wealthy in this world have everything, and yet don’t know what to do with it.  I’m a guy who has nothing — but at least I know what to do with it.

I almost wish it were the other way around.   Ah well — back to work.

Labor of Love

In case anyone’s wondered, I’m still in the land of the living, and I have not yet dropped off the face of the planet.  I realized earlier today that it’s been nine days since I’ve posted.   I was planning to delay this post until I had completed the piano-vocal score to the third musical number in Eden in Babylon, the song called The Very Same World.  But then I realized that even the completion of that score will only reflect a far greater pleasure — one that has already made itself manifest in my experience, and quite unexpectedly, at that.

Remember how I said I wasn’t looking forward to having to create an entire piano-vocal score for a musical so huge?  I alluded to the tedious ardor of having to put The Burden of Eden together nine years ago, and not having attempted a score of that magnitude since.  But to my pleasant surprise, I have found that I am actually enjoying the process of creating this score.  I’ve been working on “Same World” since Monday, and I honestly believe I will have it finished tomorrow, which is Friday.  (Or later on today, to be more accurate, since I am up after one in the morning as we speak.)

Steinway-Model-D-Grand-Piano-52626-Brazilian-Rosewood-1I think part of the difference lies in the software I’m using now, as opposed to back then.  In those days I only had a general midi replica of a piano sound.  Now I’m using a sampled Steinway grand.  Believe me, it makes a huge difference.  I’m also undergoing the intriguing challenge of trying to create a piano part the way that I myself would play these tunes on the piano.  This challenge is made even more challenging by the fact that I have never played any of these songs on the piano.  I don’t own a piano; and I wrote them, like I write all my music, “in my head.”

But hearing the sound of that Steinway, I’m eager to at least try to play them on the church piano, which is a Baldwin grand.  Once I have the music written out, it will be much easier to do so.  All I’ll have to do is change hats and read it – as though it were somebody else’s music, and not my own.  I honestly think this process will fascinate me enough, that the tedium I’d earlier dreaded will no longer be a legitimate threat.  More likely, this current fascination will morph into a gigantic labor of love.

So, I’m in the final formatting stages of “Same World” tonight.  Our church secretary said I could sent the pdf file to her, and she would print it out for me in the morning.  Then I’m going to examine the hard copy, pencil in any adjustments, and print out a final version.   My goal is to have both “Same World” and Heart Song scored by next Friday, so I can take them down to the Open Mike, where I just might meet some interested singers for the project.

Many other nice things have been happening lately, and my goal to get this musical produced seems a bit more attainable now.   The plans I’m devising to go about this are a bit less vague and a bit more fully baked than they were the last time you saw me.  But I’ll save the details for a near-future entry.  I want to take another look at the “Same World” score before I ponder the unappealing notion known as “sleep.”  I’ve long been of the camp that contends something like sleep, in situations like these, to be for the faint of heart.   Food also seems to be quite unnecessary.   My theory, as expressed in this post, is this:

What physical nutrition I lack is made up for in the spiritual nutrition with which this music is feeding my soul.

No wonder they bipolarized me!  But would I have it any other way?  Probably not.   They can bipolarize me till the cows come home.  When I take care of my soul, the rest of me takes care of itself.

Patience and Prodigy

Practical realities have often managed to elude me, especially when I find myself feeling pressured or in haste.  I’d rather do the thing immediately and do it poorly, just to get it out of the way, than exercise the patience and prodigy required to do it later — after sufficient preparation — and do it well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACase in point.   I mentioned in this entry that I’d realized the next logical step in the process of preparing my musical for production.   So,  I boldly walked into the School of Music to inquire randomly as to the availability of certain singers who would learn some of my music and assist me in recording a demo that I can present to prospective producers.

I carried no score with me.  I didn’t even have a printed out copy of my script.  I brought no items with me that could prove myself in any sense.  Fortunately for me, it turned out to be Spring Break, and nobody was in the building.  The office was closed and dark.  I prepared myself to leave, when unexpectedly a man stepped out of the dark office.

Introducing and explaining myself briefly, I found the man to be very cordial.  He pointed me to the particular professor to whom I should address my inquiry.   I looked into the professor’s credits, was mildly intimidated, took note of his office hours, and determined I would return when school was in session.

Good thing I didn’t.  It suddenly just struck me – wouldn’t it be far better if I showed up with a hard copy of the script and at least three of the songs printed out?  That would show him not only that I’m serious, but he’d have a chance to check out the manner in which the piano-vocal score had been prepared.   He’d realize at that moment that I know what I’m doing – at least in terms of creating a legible, functional musical score is concerned.  So that would help, right there.  Anybody can say they wrote a musical.   To show up with neatly written music for the singers to sing would work much more to my advantage.

What I’m hoping is that some students needing a Senior Project might eagerly learn my music for a grade.   This was in fact suggested in a blogger’s comment a while back.   It’s crossed my mind since then that singing students in search of a good grade might actually do an even better job than more-or-less mercenary professional singers I might have hired who would be more likely to do it just for money.   While it is totally against my nature to present myself as someone whose music might be worth a non-paid rehearsal or two, I think that to carry the actual music with me will no doubt work in my favor.

So – time to score about three songs.  That’s about the minimum, I think, to demonstrate the score.   If they ask where the rest of the score is, I can tell them I’ll come up with it if I know for sure they’re interested.   Who knows?   Maybe I could get a mild commission to notate the rest of the score.   After all, it’s no small task.   The last time I wrote a musical score without commission, it’s done nothing but sit on my shelf for the past ten years.   Check it out:

The Burden of Eden

(Complete Musical Score)
Copyright © 2008 by Andrew Michael Pope
All Rights Reserved 

Whether you know much about music or not, anybody can see that it obviously took a bit of effort to produce that 242-page piano-vocal score.   It’s not the kind of task I’m eager to repeat unless there’s a good reason for going about it.    In fact, even trying to score three of those numbers could throw me back into serious isolation.   I don’t want to go there.  

Well – the wheels still spin.   Necessity is the mother of invention.   Perhaps there is an easier, softer way . . .

Eden in Babylon: Complete Script

I’m at the cafe near my apartment with three other members of my Writers’ Guild. We meet here every Saturday morning at ten for an “Edit & Write-In” that lasts till one o’clock. Although conceptually this is somewhat akin to the Write City group in which I participated for a while in San Francisco, it actually is a bit looser than that.  At Write City, we would all write non-stop for a prescribed period of time without discussion of any sort.  Total silence wasn’t just a concept — it was a mandate.  But here, we’ll stop and talk with each other sometimes.  In fact, possibly even too often.   For example, it was just recently suggested quite audibly by one of the members here, for example, that I stop talking in order to let him get his work done.  Since that moment, approximately fifteen minutes ago, everyone has been completely silent,  according to concept.  Before that moment, it seemed to me anyway that we were all about talking — though perhaps I was the main culprit.

In any case, I’m here on a mission.  As reported earlier, I decided that I would refrain from looking at my script for two weeks.  Those two weeks being up today, I have been scouring the Eden in Babylon script  to see where obvious edits need to be done, as well as note any major irks.

secret-to-editingI am irked by the Big Mac reference in the “I Am Buddha” monologue, which I find odious. I am also irked by the effusive God-talk in the Winston/James confrontation. There’s a major typo on p.84 where I forgot to eliminate the Four Kids and redistribute their lines among the remaining Eight Kids, and (possibly worst of all) there is no front quotation mark to the Rousseau Quote at the beginning of the script, nor does the quote necessarily apply to the currently completed script the way that it might have applied to my vision of it in 2012, when the quote was first associated with it. Maybe there should be another quote, or no quote. Or maybe I should dedicate the play to a certain person – I can think who probably would warrant the dedication by now —  or have no dedication, or no quote –  or some combination of the foregoing.

Whatever the case, I’ll begin making the pertinent changes today and readjust them on the shared link.  However, since I don’t want to water down the “I Am Buddha” monologue, nor the Winston/James confrontation for that matter, I won’t bother to change them if I can’t think of a way to assuage my irk without doing so.  But I can at least promise technical fix-its, insofar as I notice them. Perhaps you will notice others. Anyway, here it is:

EDEN IN BABYLON: COMPLETE SCRIPT
Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope.

All Rights Reserved

Otherwise, I still don’t really feel like putting much energy into further refining or polishing this thing. Even though it’s a first draft, it’s taken me so long to come up with it, considering all the weird obstacles, blocks, etc. that have taken place in the past five years, it just seems sort of ridiculous to plow into further editing right now. Maybe not “ridiculous” – but at least self-defeating on a larger level in life. If I were to dive wholeheartedly into the refiner’s fire with this thing, I’d probably isolate myself so hugely, it would defeat the more primary purpose of getting this show on the road. The more I can involve other people in my efforts, from this day forward, the more chance I stand of gaining not only external support, but external perspective. What is right and wrong with this show will more likely be determined in some future read-through, staged reading, or work-in-progress production, than they will in the solitude of my messy room, where I will sit for hours on end scratching my head.  You get out into the real world, you start to get a director involved, and Actors — and the proof is in the pudding.

The Wheels Are Spinning

After church yesterday morning, I spoke with my pastor briefly. He said he had listened to some of the Eden in Babylon score as posted on this page. Anticipating his objection, I waited for him to elaborate. He phrased it positively when he did, and I’m also certain that he would never have characterized his observation as an “objection.”  It’s just that I’ve heard it all too often before, so I tend to be on guard.  And for good reason – for he basically said what everybody else always says: that he would like to hear it all put together – meaning the singing as well as the instrumentals.

That’s a friendly way of saying that it’s hard to tell from hearing the music alone just how the words are supposed to fit in. People look at lyrics I’ve posted; they listen to the music I’ve posted; and they think “OK – these words are supposed to match up with this music? How, exactly?” It really does put a damper on people’s ability to appreciate what I’m about. I can deny that obvious fact no longer.

So – a logical next move would be round up some singers and put them over the instrumental tracks. But who are these singers?  It is one thing for me proclaim: “I will round them up.”  But what does this mean, precisely?  Round them up – from where?  From whom?  Will they sing for free? The pastor suggested I might be able to use the church facilities, meaning the sound board, the mixer, and the microphones. He hinted at my even using members of the Choir, and I’ll admit there are some awfully decent voices there. But can they handle my style?   Well, perhaps.  But will they truly vibrate with the groove?  Doubtful.  There’s a certain type of worldly, non-churchy vibration in the music itself that lends itself to something a bit down-and-dirty at times.   It’s kind of the pastor to have offered, but it’s also uncomfortably recalling how I could easily find the right singers and pay them what they’re worth – if only I had the money.

But since I don’t, it strikes me that the School of Music might be a more likely place to find competent singers who can sing in the style of my characters and who would enjoy learning this music and recording it with me – possibly even to the point of doing so for free. About paying them, I can sort of “feel it out” when I talk with them, and definitely seek to make an impression on an academic musical level, so that they’ll recognize me as a composer-theoretician, and we can all mutually vibrate on that level as amiably as is to be expected.  Money can be brought up at around about that point.

Also, to sort of wade gently into the unknown waters here, this “rounding up effort” can be realistically restricted to a small number of “character singers” at first. I need Winston, Benzo, Mortalis, and Taura – that’s four.  Throw in a fifth woman for other female parts, and me doing the other male parts, and we have ourselves a pretty decent blend. So that would be five people to concern myself with having to pay, five people with whom I would have concerned myself with “rounding up” to begin with.  Whether the field I tap is the School of Music or anywhere else, if it’s a matter of advertising, then I’ll need to word my advertisements in a compelling manner, as well as cultivate an appealing approach, in general.

singers-in-rehearsalI’ll need a legible score, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I can extract parts from my Finale files. It will only be a problem if I become perfectionist about it, and allow it to enclose me back into isolation. This I can avoid by churning out one number at a time, while in the process of slowly gleaning singers. If we’re only talking about a handful of singers besides myself, whom we may assume will need to be very decent musicians and/or musical theatre people who have a real, built-in reverence for the kind of prodigious accomplishment to be found in the flagrant manifestation of remarkable musical score; then these being the caliber of people whom I seek probably wouldn’t mind working for free at this stage. It’s also possible that maybe I can simultaneously seek some small measure of financial support, so that they won’t have to render their services for absolutely nothing.

The wheels are spinning, anyway. I have a complete script now, so it doesn’t make much sense that the next phase of the project would entail too much more isolation. I ought to be able to use the fact of the completed script to encourage further human involvement, such as by holding a reading. But I don’t want to just focus on that, at the expense of connecting the musical dots, because I feel that to do so is a higher priority.  Although it’s true that I’ve now completed a libretto, I don’t even have a full vocal-score to present to singers or to a musical director, nor do I have (especially) samples of the music including the singing as well as the instrumental accompaniment, on which anyone can clearly hear what the score is all about.  So despite that I’ve completed a script full of text, I still don’t have a completed package.  It’s still not quite marketable.

It does seem, however, that to prepare the next piece of the package will need to involve about five other people, to do it decently, by whom I mean singers, who can sing the different character parts, along with myself, and I can maybe just accompany all the songs on the piano, if that’s the easiest way for them to learn the music, and for me to put it across.  After all, it’s what I’ve been doing all my life – so I might as well  go the extra mile here.  As to exactly where to find these other comrades of the Arts, this is another story.  But I am firmly affixed that this is the next step.   

Home Stretch

I’m on the home stretch.   It’s one-thirty in the morning here in Cascadia, yet the idea of stopping to sleep borders on absurdity.  I just reached the bottom of p127 of a show that I had estimated would run 135 pages in standard script format for a musical play.  I’ve been writing for so long that it’s difficult to conceive of slowing down and doing some light reading before bedtime, but I know it’s the right thing to do.

chi-the-homestretch-trailer-20140911I did go back after the last post and remove the four unnamed Kids from the cast as well as the entire Mainstream Chorus Line, whose players were doubled from other parts.  This significantly reduces the concentration of actors who will need to be onstage at any given time, although it only reduces the cast size from 27 to 23.  That’s probably about right, because I definitely need for this to have the feel of a large cast traditional musical without being too unwieldy.

After that, there was about a day and a half when I couldn’t put pen to paper, but since about 4pm Tuesday afternoon I’ve been working on the final Scene incessantly when I haven’t been hassled by sudden personal problems of almost maddening proportions.  I did succeed in filling out my application for the new position and submitting it to the pertinent people.   In fact, all aspects of life pertaining to work and to my church have been proceeding very well, but just about every other aspect of life is in such disarray right now, I truly fear that when I finally write the words THE END at the bottom of this document, I will not only find myself completely depressed, but possibly even collapse from utter exhaustion, after which I may find myself in a coma for weeks to come.

Anyway, that’s the buzz if you wanna know what’s happening.  This blog post was my wind-down.  Time to catch some sleep.

Moment of Decision

I’m trying to relax my high goal here, but at the same time not be wasteful with the energy that I need to apply toward it.  I just now made the difficult decision that has been blocking my efforts ever since I finished Act Two, Scene Two in the musical play I am writing.  I have finally decided to reduce the size of the Chorus Line of Street Kids from 12 to 8, and eliminate the Chorus Line of Mainstream Citizens entirely.  I had previously decided to double parts in the two chorus lines due to having earlier been cautioned that my cast size was becoming too large.  The two chorus lines never appeared at the same time in the same place anyway, and there would be plenty of time for costume changes.  But still, the presence of the Mainstream Chorus Line is unwieldy and unnecessary. 

in-any-moment-ofAlthough I sort of knew this to be true, I was resisting making the right choice because it would involve going all the way back to the beginning of the libretto, yanking out unnecessary parts and, if need be, replacing them with parts that can be performed by existing players.  So now, I have to do that very thing.  Of course I am a bit daunted by the ardor of the task.  But it’s the right thing to do.   So I’ll do it.

This changes things.  I’m thinking that, because the eighth and final Scene still remains to be written, hopefully the task of sifting through the show from the very beginning up until the end of the seventh Scene will help clarify decisions I need to make in the last Scene that have still been vague in my mind.  In any case, it seems highly unlikely that I’ll be able to crank it all out in one sitting.  On the other hand, there’s a chance it will be out of the way by Wednesday night’s choir rehearsal.

I told the people at work that my application for Minister of Music will be in by Thursday.  The present Music Minister does need to retire, and I’d like to rise to the higher calling if I can.  But I don’t want my absorption in this project to be a deterrent.  I want this draft to be done by the time of my interview.  If that’s putting too much pressure on myself, so be it.  All I can say is that working without any deadline whatsoever as of the past five years sure hasn’t gotten the job done.

An Odd Feeling

The odd feeling I described in the last paragraph of the previous post seems to be in the process of panning out into an approximate facsimile of the predicted reality. Specifically, that feeling was stated as thus:

I have this odd feeling that the next time I put pen to paper, I’m probably not going to stop until the long-awaited moment arrives when I write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document.

A bold claim, if there ever was one. However, what has been happening is much akin to my feeling, despite its alleged oddity. At a certain point yesterday, I began working on Act Two, Scene Two; and I found myself quite unable to stop until the inevitability of a certain annoying necessity known as “sleep” bid me do so. I saw once again the eeriness with which the time when I wrote the words “End of Act Two, Scene Two” at the bottom of p.116 coincided with the exact time of 1:45am. Strangely, I seem to be finishing up at the quarter of the hour, every time I do finish up. Not sure what it means (if anything) but it’s an interesting thing to behold.

So – what is being manifested is an approximate facsimile of the predicted reality. I had predicted I wouldn’t stop until I reached the end of the entire script. This proved to be a completely unrealistic prediction, though I must admit it spurred me on. Instead of finishing a complete draft, I still have one Scene to go. Not only that, but I went to bed disgruntled. There were still strange inconsistencies in the story line that were heading me toward the dreaded deus ex machina. I went to bed having no idea how to resolve them.

aha_titleThe good news is that, not a half hour into the morning, I had another luminous moment of “Aha!” Who would have thought it? I now sit cheerfully in the local cafe where the Writer’s Guild meets on Saturdays, awaiting the arrival of the other Writers, so that I might share my jubilation with those of like mind. In fact, I hope they may add fuel to the fire, that all remnants of a cheap “wrap-up ending” will on this day be discharged for good.

Besides, I promised the Minister of Music at my church I’d be done with this draft by tomorrow. She’s hoping to retire soon, in which case there’s a chance I might be called to assume some of her responsibilities. But I’m enough of an Artist to know that for me to presume to do so right now would be foolhardy, as long as this script still dangles. And I’m enough of a Christian to know that at a certain point, I’m going to have to sacrifice some of my current absorption in my Art to focus more fully on my devotion to Christ.

It’s a fine line.  One way or the other, I can honestly say that I’m almost done with the initial draft of Eden in Babylon.  It’s been a long time coming — and it won’t be long now.  When I do write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document, I can assure you — you’ll be the first to know.

 

A Long and Winding Tunnel

The other day, another blogger cautioned me not to let my blogging get in the way of my Art.  She’s got a point there.  I reflected on this, and I realized that there have been days when I’ve put more energy into describing my project than I have into the actual project itself.  For this reason, I have decided that my earlier decision to try to post “every other day” is unrealistic.  I’ll post when I have something to say.  We must, after all, remember the wise words of Plato:  plato1

The fool speaks because he has to say something.  The wise man speaks because he has something to say. 

That said, I do have a couple things to say this morning.  I may be getting way ahead of myself here, but I worry about my song Children of the Universe being taken out of context.  In the musical, the Street Kids are fed up, they’re out in the elements, they have an inkling that they’d rather be “safe” in jail, and they decide to vandalize the homes of the wealthy where their friend, Winston Greene, was born, so they can go join him in jail after his wealthy birth family put him there.  It’s a vengeful act, and not an uncommon sentiment among those who feel they’ve been screwed left and right by society.  This is how revolutions have been started throughout history.

But once again, I’m a spiritual person, and a morally minded person.  Do I  myself advocate violent uprising against the bourgeoisie?  Actually, no — I do not.  I am a man of peace.   But I am trying to make a point here.  The point I’m trying to make is that if we don’t get a handle on the effects of classism in America, it’s probably going to happen.  Many people in the impoverished classes are incredibly frustrated that wealthy people seem at times to view their poverty as a moral failing.  They would prefer that people in the privileged classes respect them enough to at least listen to their points of view, and consider that what they have to say might be valid.  I am far from wealthy myself, but when I was even more impoverished than I am today, I felt this frustration.  I was simply receiving too many lectures from people who thought they knew the answers for me, when in reality they knew nothing about the world of poverty, and I often felt that I had a lot of answers for them.  But in general, they wouldn’t listen — and this was a frustration.

This frustration was shared by almost everyone else I knew who was in a similarly impoverished position.  Apparently, it was also compounded by the tensions of urban living.  This is one reason why I finally made the decision to relocate in a rural area, which is just about the wisest move I’ve ever made in my life.  Since then, my wrathful resentment toward those who flaunt their opulence has been reduced to a relatively mild disdain.  (We don’t “do” upper crust in this neck of the woods.)   

In light of that personal transformation, I would hate to go down as one who advocated violent revolt against the establishment – or against anyone or anything, for that matter.  But I wouldn’t mind going down as one who issued a warning that it’s probably about to happen if we don’t shape up.

The second thing I wanted to mention is that I’ve been vigorously working on the second Scene in Act Two and am beginning to see the light at the end of this particularly long and winding tunnel.   I have this odd feeling that the next time I put pen to paper, I’m probably not going to stop until the long-awaited moment arrives when I write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document.  This time, unlike my earlier efforts at getting this show on the road, I can see the end from the beginning.   For that progress, I may thank my  Writer’s Guild , my pastor, my Minister of Music, my friends in my current community of Artists and musicians — and all of you.  Without the support of other writers and like-minded thinkers, I would never have been able to reach this stage  — in fact, I wouldn’t have come near it.  So – what I have to say in closing is:

thankyoured

The Psychic Slate

A few days ago, I decided that my policy for this blog will be to post every other day.   Not every day, not twice a week, but every other day.   Somehow that frequency will ease my anxiety.

So this is today’s post (obviously), after which the next post will be on Wednesday, and the one after that on Friday.  I say this so that you’ll know what to expect.

I would have posted earlier but one of my anxieties had not yet been addressed, and it would unfortunately have kept me from posting.  That anxiety is the father’s anxiety concerning the welfare of his daughter, from whom he hadn’t heard for an uneasy period of time.  She did answer the phone just now, she does seem fine, and all it took was a brief phone conversation for my paternal anxiety to be assuaged.

So – now I can post.  As to what I shall post, I can only say that the psychological issues regarding anxieties, resentments, mania, frustrations, confusions and so forth have been predominant in my consciousness of late.   I might be able to create a blog post when hassled by these things, but I certainly can’t create a good Act 2, Scene 2.  Somehow, I feel as though my psychic slate needs to be cleared before I can proceed.

Case in point.  After I “finished” Act 2, Scene 1 on Thursday, I emailed the script to a friend of mine whose opinion I esteem.  I then remembered that people tend to look at the beginning and the end of something before deciding if it’s worth their time and energy to bother with it.  The ending sucked, but I was exhausted by the effort, and my own perfectionism was a deterrent, so I slapped it in place pretty sloppily and decided to move on.  Then, when I realized that she would probably look at the ending before reading much of what came before it, I couldn’t live with myself.

So, on Saturday, I sat in the same spot for six hours rewriting the lyrics to “Children of the Universe.”  Now, even if you know nothing whatsoever about Music, if you choose to indulge me with four minutes of your time and listen to this clip, I’m sure you will easily discern how difficult the process of creating all those lyrics could be.  Click here:

Children of the Universe

I wrote that piece about four years ago, wrote about half the words, and left it – knowing that one day I was going to have to finish the lyrics.   Due to the arduous nature of the task, I procrastinated.  But did I “let go?”  Of course not.   If I had, I’d have never come back to it — even though it took four years to get around to it.   I thought about it consistently.  I had to do it — I just kept stalling.

This time, I was through stalling.  I hammered it out until I truly was satisfied.  Then I let go.   But here’s my quandary: why do I not let go before I finish an arduous task?   Why did I have to sit in one spot for six hours without taking a break before I could reach any peace of mind about it?

It seems to me, now that I really stop to think about it, that the difficulty I have “letting go” of a task is psychologically akin to the difficulty I have in “letting go” of broken friendships, shattered hopes, and so forth.   I have a couple friends who haven’t talked with me for years now.  One of them even hung up on the phone the last time I called him, and I honestly can tell you that I have no idea why.  However, since then, he has not answered any emails or phone messages.  Try as I might to find out what I could have done to have deserved such disrespectful treatment, I will never know the answer unless he decides to tell me himself.  That was four years ago, and not one word has been spoken.  Therefore, I must “let go.”

Now, another person might more readily let go of such an unfortunate event.  Another person might just shrug his shoulders and say: “Who cares?”  Another person might let go of the entire friendship right of the bat, saying: “Well, I guess there goes that friendship!  Now – what’s for dinner, honey?”  To the point, another  person might have taken three or four breaks in the six hour period of time in which I insisted on not leaving my desk until the lyrics to Children of the Universe were complete.   But you know what?

Another person would not be about to finish the first musical in the history of American musical theatre that will depict classism in its most sordid form; and yet still engage, entertain, and even inspire the audience.  Another person would never have dared even begin trying to write a musical of such gargantuan scope, let alone finish it.  Another person would not have dreamed about writing Eden in Babylon. But I not only dreamed about writing it — I *am* writing it.

Alive for a Reason

frustrated-woman-cursing-while-doing-her-taxes-royalty-free-clipart-1nulfg-clipartThere’s something I haven’t mentioned yet about this musical script I’ve been trying to write.  I’ve noticed that it’s almost impossible for me to put pen to paper on this project until I have cleared my head of any resentment or anxiety that could possibly deter me along the way.   This is undoubtedly why I was not able to work on the script for three years following the essential completion of the score.  There was a resentment against a certain individual that was so unwieldy, I basically couldn’t even look at the script without beginning to cuss the person out in my mind (and sometimes even out loud.)  This is also the reason why I wrote nothing at all yesterday.  There were simply too many resentments and anxieties to have to get out of the way first.

This morning, however, I think most of them have already been successfully banished.  I’ve been up for a little less than two hours, and I’m about to get rolling.  One thing that did occur yesterday, as I found myself immersed in the annoyances of moral and practical obligation, was a huge and sudden illumination that just about took my breath away.

I suddenly realized the parallel between the suggestion in Part Four of my anthology and the huge happy ending that my musical Eden in Babylon is headed for.   I’ve also not mentioned the anthology, and just this morning created a new page  to explain it.  Essentially, it’s an account of the five year period of time when I lived continuously outdoors, except for ten months out of those five years.   The suggestion in Part Four of the anthology is extremely radical and no doubt will make many people uncomfortable as they endeavor to grasp it.  However, in the musical it can somehow be transformed into a happy ending. 

This is because musicals traditionally do not depict life as it is.  They depict life as it ought to be.  This at least is how I was brought into the realm of musical theatre, with a high school production of Man of La Mancha.   Since I was terrified of going to VietNam at the time, the message of hope and idealism in the story of Don Miguel de Cervantes and his famous creation, Don Quixote, was enough to convince me that I would probably be doing musical theatre for the rest of my days.

Unfortunately, however, musical theatre is not what it once was — or at least what it once ought to have been.  Hamilton and Les Miserables notwithstanding, most of the musicals that have come out in the past twenty to thirty years are disappointing crap.   Many of them appeal to musical theatre people only, and not to the general populace.  I frankly gave up about thirteen years ago.  I’ve only done one show in the past thirteen years – a Gilbert and Sullivan show, The Yeoman of the Guard, at Stanford University.  Outside of that, and teaching a few workshops, I’ve mainly been a recluse.  But in that isolation, one thing I did begin to do — was write.

In writing this musical, I hope to help brighten the picture of musical theatre in today’s world.   I’m thankful for all the years I spent outdoors.  It wasn’t easy to write about at the time, but the wealth of source material for this musical is something I could never otherwise have harvested.   As far as the anthology, which obviously draws on the same wealth of material, I have found a publisher as of approximately six months ago.  He contacted me when he was ready about a month ago, and I had to tell him that I was not.  I could finish the compilation, but it would mean dropping the musical, and I just can’t do that right now.   In fact, it’s entirely possible that this musical will be my gift to the world.

I am alive, after all I’ve been through, for a reason. 

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

Another Scene Down

I’m not sure exactly how many hours I put into my writing today.   It seems I didn’t really get started till about one in the afternoon.   Let’s say there was an hour break for dinner and bathroom stops.   So I guess I wrote for eight hours.   All I know is that when I wrote the words “End of Act Two, Scene One” at the bottom of p.104, I looked down at the computer clock — and it read 10:00pm exactly.

I had a feeling today would be a good day.  I awoke in good spirits, feeling relaxed and relieved after having resolved a difficult situation at work.  I also knew I had the day off — and I knew what to do with it.   Most of the writing of the 17-page Scene consisted of refining the six pages leading up to the song called Hunted, finishing the lyrics to Hunted, writing all the dialogue between Hunted and the following song, writing a new monologue called the “Mainstream Monologue,” and finally finishing all the lyrics to the song Children of the Universe.   (If you happen to listen to the music of that song, you can easily discern how writing its lyrics was no small task.)

Obviously, I felt very pleased when I finished all that work.  But there’s something gnawing at me.

real-writerIf you’ve been reading me much at all lately, you’ll know that I’ve been contemplating the different stages of the creative process as well as the different spaces of Bipolar Disorder, and how they seem to coalesce in order to yield long periods of time when nothing gets done at all — at least not consciously — followed by long periods of time when all kinds of work is steadily produced.   Even though I only have two Scenes left to go, and I can actually even see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have this horrendous fear that the next period of depression – or incubation – is going to last even longer than the last one, which was damn near seven days. 

For the sake of balance, I want to stop writing now, and rest my weary head and bones.  But for the sake of getting the show finished, don’t you think it would be better if I forged forward, while I’m still on the roll?   I’d hate to plunge into another week or two of dry vacuous nothingness.

But no – I must seek a more healthy balance here.  I have tomorrow off as well, so I might as well get some rest, and have at it once again in the morning.   I’m starting to get the feeling that God is actually going to allow me, after all these years, to finish the damn thing.  I need to ride on that hope.   There’s no turning back by now.

Never the Twain Shall Meet?

It’s been a week now since I’ve updated.   Mostly it’s been all bad.   The day after I last posted here, I was chewed out at work by a person who is not my boss but who insisted on giving me a ride home, evidently so she could lay on me all the things that she thought I was doing wrong.  Because I’d had a bad night that night, trying to function on very low sleep, and continuing to try to adjust to this new medication, I sort of felt as though I was being hit below the belt.  To address all her criticisms effectively would have involved implicating the conductor, which I did not want to do.   I felt, as I have often felt while accompanying this particular church choir, like a scapegoat.  It’s easier to blame things on the accompanist, whom you can clearly hear; than on the conductor, whom you cannot clearly see – and this is part of the problem.  I became really angry over the whole thing, and I almost quit my job.  It doesn’t pay me well enough to have to keep putting up with all this pettiness, when I feel I’m doing the best job I can do.

The conductor herself is not faulting me for my job performance, either.  It’s only the members of the Choir.  I’ve talked with my pastor about this, and basically what I’m supposed to do is try to remember Who is being glorified here.  But that’s the problem – God is not being glorified.   There’s just a bunch of petty bickering that makes me feel like I don’t belong there.   To be honest, I’m still thinking about quitting.  I’m on a fixed income anyway – and when the Feds found out I was working, they charged me all kinds of money and chopped my Social Security payments practically in half.  I’d have been making more money had I never dared to get a part-time church job to begin with.   So I’ve definitely only been hanging on to the job for its propensity to glorify God.   It’s not as though there’s a monetary advantage in my keeping the job.   In fact, ideally, I would only be a member of the church, with no job responsibilities whatsoever.   But somebody has to do it, and I have a funny feeling I’m not going to be able to quit.  Something tells me that, much as I dislike my world right now, it’s still the best of all possible worlds, for me.

So all of this has been preoccupying me.  I fell into a deep depression, and I called in sick on Sunday when, to say that I was “sick” was probably more than a minor understatement.  I couldn’t focus on my playwriting at all.   I had begun to worry that I have been focusing too much on the playwriting anyway, and not enough on my job.  I had even discussed this with my pastor, and no doubt will discuss it with the therapist when I meet with him next on Friday.  The church is supposed to provide a spiritual anchor – and I guess, in most ways, it does.   God probably also knows some things I am loathe to admit; for instance, that if I didn’t have the job, I probably would never make it to church.   So any “anchorage” I’m getting from the church itself wouldn’t be happening if I didn’t have the job that goes with it. 

I slept round the clock for three days solid.  Finally, I cut back on my medication unilaterally.  I just can’t be as exhausted as I’ve been, and expect to get anything accomplished on any level.  I’m beginning to curse myself for even conceding to take the meds.  They’ve never done me any good in the past.  Why would now be any different?  I thought they were helping me to handle the social interaction of my Writer’s groups.  But now I just want to lay in bed all day, and not interact socially at all.   This is unlike me.  I’m not prone to depression, as a general rule.  Maybe the meds are making me depressed?

I think I’ll take back my mania, thank you.   But gosh – there’s got to be a middle ground! I’ll call the doctor today, and hopefully he’ll either take me off the meds or cosign my decision to cut back.   I should have called earlier, but I was too depressed to deal with reality.  Only this morning did I finally arise at a normal hour.  Only last night did I make some headway with the script.   And, I didn’t like letting a whole week go by without updating, so I figure I’d post my truth.  Now, if you don’t mind, I must cease this whiny rant and all the self-piteous bemoanings that go along with it.  I abhor these kinds of personal entries; I’m an Artist; I have pride.  Guess that’s the bottom line.  

I’m an Artist – and I must have pride.   But I’m a Christian – and I must not have pride.  Somehow there’s a “never the twain shall meet” aspect of all this — and it doesn’t sit well in my stomach.

The Second Act

I’m currently lodged within an out-of-the-way fast food joint on the edge of town with a Wireless connection and a very limited number of customers on site.   I figure I’m removed enough from my ordinary itinerary that I’m not likely to be disturbed as I try to sink my teeth into the Opening of Act Two.

I did write four pages Monday morning before my first meeting with the therapist to whom I have been assigned.  I had been struggling for about three days with exactly how to begin the second Act, prior to its opening number: Hunted.   During those three days, there was a sequence of illuminations, each one drawing me closer to the point where I could confidently put pen to page.   Then, when I wrote those pages, I was rolling.  They were almost right.  However, the first time that new characters needed to arrive, I got stuck again.  Something was wrong.

I retreated into incubation; and arguably, into depression.  I really wanted to be rolling — to be flowing.  I don’t enjoy these lulls.  But once again, during the lull, I gradually received a substantial illumination.  It is now clear to me that if I want to know what the entrance of the new characters is all about, I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the first four pages.   Those four pages in and of themselves seem very effective, but they are not sufficiently continuous with the end of Act One.  The continuity that I need in order to proceed must be evident at the very beginning of the Act — not midway through the first Scene.  

light-goes-onSo the light had gone on, and I could relax a bit.  Still, none of this is as important to me at this moment as the substance of this first meeting with my therapist.  I had been nervous prior to seeing him.   I’m not a person who very readily places his trust in psychologists or psychiatrists.  At times, they have even seemed to be the very enemies of Art in my highly defensive view.  But this time, I had too much to get off my chest — and too much at stake.  Moreover, the doctor who recently diagnosed me as “mildly bipolar” strongly encouraged me to seek therapy in order to supplement the low dose of the mood stabilizer that he had prescribed.  So I was eager to meet with Dave, the therapist — though admittedly very nervous.  

To my surprise, Dave made me feel quite comfortable the moment I walked through the door.  As it turns out, he is from a musical family.  He himself is musical, as are his parents and siblings, and his daughter is a high school music teacher.  More crucially, he thinks like an Artist.  So I could tell that, as I discussed the dilemma of the Writer’s Block that had paralyzed me for three years, and its lingering effects, I sensed that he identified. 

When I finished my explanation, he said something very profound, and I quote:

Wherever Art is involved, the ego of the Artist
is something that the Artist will seek to protect at all costs.

His insight was that, in the manner in which I could not “take or leave” the perplexing implications in the professor’s critique (see this post), I was protecting my ego for the sake of my Art.  The manner in which I protected my ego was, unfortunately, to pester the professor, badger him, and possibly be perceived as a threat to his own well-being as I persistently tried to persuade him to clarify his mysterious review before it drove me nuts.  All the while, I was blocked against further work on the project, because I couldn’t rectify my respect for his opinion with the fact that I was unable to understand it.

His theory is that the professor himself, also being an Artist, had to protect his own ego, for the sake of his own professionalism.  He had hoped I would “take it or leave it.”  Had I been more professional, I most certainly would have left it.  Unfortunately, due to my very low station in life at the time, being lucky enough to have secured a 30-day stay in a homeless shelter during the Winter, with no possessions to my name other than the laptop which was, in fact, a gift from the professor, I was unable to ascend to the level of professionalism the professor expected of me.  In my downtrodden state of being, I considered that script to be all I had going for me.  Since the professor was the only person in the business who was paying any attention to me, I placed an inordinate amount of hope in his estimate of my work.  Then, when he “panned” me, I felt attacked.  So I protected myself – by fighting back.   He then protected his own self – by withdrawing, and eventually removing me from all Internet interfaces.

This all seemed somehow perfectly understandable.  Dave was able to help me see a broader view, in which the professor and I were more alike than different.  Our artistic egos are strangely locking horns in an invisible dimension of the Arts.  Both egos desire the horns to be unlocked.  It only takes one entity to unlock both horns.  I only have the power over the horns of one of the entities.  It’s time I unlocked the horns of my ego – and my ego will be at peace.

horns Dave then asked how the script was coming along now.  Perking up, I was able to convey the happy news, how the block first began to break at a cathartic Thanksgiving dinner, where a kind family from my church permitted me to express my angst without judging me or writing me off as some kind of petty bastard, wallowing in the bitterness of a broken friendship.   I shared how, gradually, more and more people in my community have tuned into my project, and have shown a surprising amount of support for my work.  But most of all, I shared how I had proceeded much further into the script than ever before, more slowly and carefully, reaching the end of Act One even, and on into the second Act.   The 91 pages now are far more evolved than the earlier 56 pages of relative drivel I submitted in haste to the previous professor.   Nor am I at an impasse or any kind of roadblock, but plowing steadily forward to the end of Act Two.  My creative life has been transformed far and away for the better, since the darker days of dejection, despair, and dependency upon the approval of a single, detached individual.  As I approach the end of the Second Act, I need neither praise nor blame.  My approval resounds from within and without me.  My God has accepted my work.