Tuesday Tuneup Thirty

Q. Where would you like to be?

A.  In California.

california
California

Q. Why on earth would you ever want to be in a place like California?

A. I get tired of not being allowed to have a problem.

Q. What’s that supposed to mean?

A. My experience with the State of California, having lived in a number of different cities there, is that in California, I was permitted to have a problem.

Q. What do you mean, “permitted to have a problem?”

A. Down there it was okay for me to have a problem.

Q. And it’s not okay up here to have a problem?

A. Not really.  Nobody seems to have any problems up here.  Or, if they do, they certainly don’t show them.  Me?  I’ve got problems.  I’ve got issues.  And when they arise, they stick out like a sore thumb.

Q. So you’re saying you don’t feel like you fit in up here?

A. Not when I have this many problems, no.  Down in California, it seems like everybody’s got problems.  So I blend right in.

Q. But haven’t you solved a lot of your problems since you’ve been up here?

A. Some of them, yes.  I’m paying $450 for a one bedroom apartment that would have been $1800 down there, at least in the Bay Area.  I’m not on the streets anymore.  I’ve got a decent place to live, and privacy.   And being around happy people has boosted my morale.  Just today, the Personnel Director at my church said twice that he believes I was meant to be here.  That God had something to do with it.  And it was encouraging, but still — I kinda feel like I’m just about the unhappiest one in the bunch.

Q. Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. Probably because I have a reputation of being a happy-go-lucky guy who rises with the song of the lark and wants very little out of life except to write his writings, speak his speakings, and compose his composings in peace.

Q. And are you not precisely what your reputation suggests?

A. Usually I am.  But right now I’m not.   Not the past three months anyway.  Too many problems.

Q. Would going back to California solve these problems?

A. Of course not.  But it would put me in a place where everybody else had at least as many problems as I do.  I wouldn’t feel so alone.

Q. Could it possibly be that you are only having a bad day?

A. Maybe.  And just maybe it’s in a financial area.  Now I don’t personally mind being poor or encountering setbacks.  It’s a lot better to be poor, and to live inside and have food in the cupboard, than it is to be poor and have to live on the streets.  But what happens is that when setbacks are encountered, it aggravates my class issues.  

Q. Class issues?

A. Yes.  All the things that I get paid by people like Classism Exposed to write about.  And while these events may indeed bolster my writing eventually, I tend to have to wade through a wad of resentment against “rich people” in the meantime.

Q. You have resentment against rich people?

A. Well, I try not to.   And I eventually get over it.  But I gotta just tell you, some of these rich people — I don’t care about their money.  It’s the lectures.  They lecture me about things they’ve never been through and can’t possibly understand.  And they expect me to kiss their asses every time they do me the slightest favor, even though it’s totally no skin off their backs.  And they, they —

Q. They what, Andy?  And who are they?   Isn’t this supposed to be about you, and not about an abstract group of invisible “rich people” who are always lecturing you expecting you to kiss their asses?

A. Three questions at once?   Really, Questioner!  You seem almost as uptight as I am.

Q. Then why don’t we both slow down?

A. Sounds like a plan.   I’ll answer the first question.   They — whoever they are — expect me to be able to do the things that they can do.  This is because they, unlike me, either have either the money to do them, or the mental health to do them, or both.

Q. And who are they?

A. Just a bunch of phantoms from my past whom I never see anymore, never talk to, and yet still fly around like bats in my brain.

Q. Isn’t this supposed to be about you and not about them?

A. Yes, but I am just too upset right now.

Q. Why?

A. Financial.  It’s the end of the month.  I’m on a fixed income.   A couple unexpected charges came in, and it threw me into a state of insecurity.   When I was feeling kinda low about it, I made the mistake of mentioning it to somebody.  I went into some detail, and they only said: “that’s life!”  In California, they would have commiserated.   They would have all shared stories about similar insecurities, and how frustrated they all were.  And then, my depression would have been validated — not dismissed.

Q. But rather than seek validation for your depression, why not accept that this is a fact of life like the happy people do?

A. Well, that’s where my mental health comes in.  I’ve got some kind of problem that makes me over-react to stuff like this.  They say — bipolar.  I don’t know.  I get tired of it all.  Which is also a part of my mental health problem.

Q. Come on now — is it really your mental health?   Are you really that crazy?

A. No – I don’t like to think so anyway.  I mean, what are you driving at?

Q. Do you really want to sacrifice the things you do well in order to correct the things you do poorly?

A. Don’t make me laugh!  Have you listened to my piano playing lately?  There’s rage written all over it!  If I treated a human being the way I treat that piano, I’d be in jail for Assault and Battery.

Q. So these psych meds will make your music more placid?  Less threatening?

A. I wasn’t going to put it that way!

Q. Are you ready to play hard ball?

A. Probably not.   Do I have a choice in the matter?

Q. How many laptops were stolen from you in California during the last three years you lived there?

A. Five.  Four in Berkeley, and one in Oakland.

Q. How many laptops have been stolen from you in the past 2 1/2 years you have lived here?

A. Zero.

Q. How many cell phones and headphones were stolen from you in California?

A. Too many to count.

Beautiful Fall colors in Boise Idaho.  Beautiful Fall colors in Boise Idaho.
Idaho

Q. Has anything at all been stolen from you in Idaho?

A. No.  Not one thing.

Q. How many jobs did you get the last three years you were in California?

A. Zero.

Q. How many jobs have you had since you’ve been up here?

A. Two.

Q. When was the last time you signed a one year lease on an apartment in California?

A. Gosh, I don’t know.  Probably in the 70’s in college, when my dad cosigned.

Q. How many one year leases have you signed on apartments in Idaho?

A. Two.  Go on.

Q. How many people called you “crazy” when you were in California?

A. Just about everyone I know.  Close friends even.  I was like — a curiosity piece to them.  Always the odd man out, the weirdo.

Q. How many people have called you “crazy” in North Idaho?

A. Zero.  Go on.

Q. How many years were you out on the streets in California?

A. You know the answer to that.  Twelve years, barring scattered rentals here and there that never worked out.

Q. How many days have you spent on the streets since you’ve been in Idaho?

A. Zero.  Please continue.

Q. How many people whom you know from California think that you experienced a total psychic change on a 48-hour bus trip to Idaho?

A. Quite a few.  If one more Californian tells me that I “found God” on that bus trip, I think he’s going to find a right cross in his mug that came straight from the devil.  Go on.

Q. How many people in Idaho believe that you experienced a total psychic change on a 48 hour bus trip?

A. Zero.  Of course, they have no idea what I was like before the 48-hour bus trip.  But I can guarantee you that I did not change one bit during those 48 hours.

Q. How many drivers have flipped you off in Idaho?

A. Zero.

Q. How many grown men and women have you encountered in Idaho who blame all their problems on their parents?

A. Zero.

Q. Have you met anyone in Idaho who refuses to call their mother on Mother’s Day?

A. Not yet.  Go on.

Q. How many people accepted you for who you are in the State of California?

A. Not too many!  They were always trying to change me into something I was not.

Q. Are you accepted for who you are here in Idaho?

A. Totally.  Nobody tries to change anybody up here.  It’s refreshing.

Q. When your ex-wife came back to you after thirty years, what was the overall reaction among people whom you know here in Idaho?

A. People were thrilled!   They encouraged us.  They thought what we were doing was fantastic – we got nothing but positive from every single person here.

Q. And how did people in California react?

A. They thought I was crazy, as usual.  If they said anything at all, it was something along the lines of: “I’m gonna stay out of that one!”

Q. Are you ready for the Big One?

A. There’s a bigger one than that?  You gotta be kidding.

Q. How many people complimented you on your typing speed in California?

A. Not many.

Q. How many people in California told you that you were typing too loud?

A. Innumerable.  It happened three times a week.  Sometimes three times a day.

Q. How many people in Idaho have told you that you were typing too loud?

A. Zero.

Q. How many people have complimented you on your typing speed here in Idaho?

A. Shucks, I don’t know.  Twenty or thirty maybe.

Q. And what does all this say?

A. It says that, due to a variety of factors, some of them cultural, some of them socio-economic, people in Idaho seem to have a tendency to emphasize the positive.  People in California, unbeknownst to them, appear to have a tendency to emphasize the negative.

Q. Which do you prefer?

A. The positive, of course.

Q. Then why don’t you start emphasizing it?

A. That, sir, is the $64,000 question.

Q. May I be excused, then?

A. Not so fast, buddy.  You gotta feel my sarcasm first.  I’ve got issues.  And they’re a hell of a lot deeper than financial.  I’m as positive right now as I can possibly be, or as I even should be, in the eyes of an all-knowing God.

Q. Do tell – what are these deeper issues?

A. They’re none of your damned business.  Get outta here.

The Questioner is silent. 

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

All for the Love of Coffee

Not everything that happened in the psychiatric facility described in the previous entry was humane.  For example, there was a very disturbing turn of events that took place after I noticed that, while all the other patients were receiving caffeinated coffee with their breakfasts, I alone was condemned to decaf.

When I asked why this was, a psych tech named Steve stepped forward.  The following conversation ensued.

coffee protectionSteve: Well, Andy, because you are bipolar, we feel that regular coffee would hype you up too much.

Andy: But I’ve been having a cup of coffee every day since I was 19 years old.  I can tell you for a fact that a cup of coffee relaxes me.

Steve: If you were ADHD, the cup of coffee would relax you.  But since you are bipolar, the cup of coffee hypes you up.

Andy: Well then, I suppose I must be ADHD, because as I just told you, my morning cup of coffee relaxes me.

Steve: Andy, be honest with us.  You know for a fact that because you are bipolar, your morning cup of coffee does not relax you!  Your cup of coffee makes you hyper.

Andy: But Steve, don’t you think I know how my morning cup of coffee affects me?

Steve: Listen Andy, we know that you want help, but you seem to want the help to happen on your own terms!

Andy: My own terms?  A cup of coffee in the morning is my own terms?  ME AND THIRTY-FIVE MILLION OTHER AMERICANS??

Suddenly, about five mental health workers leaped out of their seats, and before I knew it, I was being given a shot of concentrated Zyprexa on my tongue.  Everything went black.

Approximately 24 hours later, I woke up to the sight of another psych tech, a fellow named Tim whom I had remembered from my first incarceration in said facility back in 2004.  He was dressed entirely in black, which I recall caused a disturbed schizo-affective back in 2004 to think he was a manifestation of the devil.  I, however, knew him to be a pretty nice guy.

“Andy, don’t make a big deal out of a cup of coffee here, man — it’s not going to work in your favor.”

“I don’t know, Tim.  It just doesn’t seem like three days of forced caffeine withdrawal is working in my favor either.”

As I began, in my typical fashion, to go over the heads of everybody and anybody in order to secure my badly needed cup of coffee, I eventually landed at the director of the institution, who happened to be from Austria.

I guess they think a little bit differently over there in Austria.  The psych techs who had forced the Zyprexa concentrate into my body were reprimanded, and my cup of coffee was made manifest on the third day.

Just in time for me to meet Greg the Bartender and head towards Stockton.  But in all due deference to those who have been asking me to write my memoirs, I’m pretty sure the buck stops here.

Or does it?

TO BE CONTINUED

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

 

I Want to Be Homeless

I have these two friends I’ll call Randy and Roger.  Both of them are what I would call “rich.”  Neither of them would call themselves “rich.”  Most people would call them “rich.”  But they live in these insular, wealthy worlds in which everybody with whom they contact would be at least considered “upper middle class.”  Occasionally, they fish out a poor person and help that person out, just to assuage their guilty consciences.  But neither of them will ever do the one thing that a poor person needs the most, which is to offer that person respect.

Neither Randy nor Roger ever listens to me.  They both constantly lecture me.  If either of them does, on rare occasion, appear to be listening, they show no confidence that the viewpoint I am espousing might be valid.  Instead, they sort of look blank for a moment or two, and then go on lecturing me.  I have known Roger for almost fifty years now, and Randy for twenty years.  But there was a time when the three of us were all in the same boat.  We were all what I would now call “rich,” and what in those days we might have referred to as “upper middle class” – or at least “middle class.”  For me to be making $50,000 a year and have $13,000 saved up in an IRA and a market rate savings account definitely does not spell “poor.”

Now I’m getting around to something.  A while back, when I was frustrated that I couldn’t find singers for my project who would work for free, I sent a joint email to Randy and Roger, asking them if they could help.  Randy replied by suggesting I was having an “episode.”  Roger did not reply, but the next time I spoke with him, he insisted I should be “taking my meds.”  I am searching for my email in my Sent Folder now, among myriad other emails addressed to one or the other of these guys, and I can’t find it.  I’ll be sure to show you it once I do, but I can assure you there was nothing in the email that a reasonable person would hold to be an indication of a mental health crisis.

Not to mention, taking my “meds” isn’t going to help me find the singers I need for the project.

KJV_Luke_16-26One of the points I often stress (that neither Randy nor Roger will listen to) is that it is unfair to those of us in the poorer socio-economic classes to be told that our abject poverty is the result of, or indicative of, a “mental health condition.”  Granted, we all have our mental health issues.  But there have been so many times when I have had a problem that could simply have been solved by money, and that a rich friend of mine, unwilling to let go of their money on my behalf, attributed to my “mental health disorder.”

Another thing I’ve noticed about these guys is that neither of them has a “concept” of respect.  I once very respectfully asked Randy to stop introducing me to people as “bipolar.”  I told him that this is a personal matter, and that I had mentioned my alleged mental-health diagnosis to him, because was a trusted friend.  

So – what do you think Randy did?  Nothing at all, in terms of actually honoring my request.  He continued the same pattern, introducing me as “bipolar” to every person with whom we mutually came into contact.  One day he sent me a copy of an email he sent to a Choir director, trying to get me a job as an accompanist, which contained the words: “Andy does have bipolar disorder, but he still can be trusted.”  Did I get that job?  Of course not!  On to the next applicant.

Similarly, when I asked Roger to kindly leave all talk about psychiatric medications I should be taking to my doctor. my therapist, and I; nothing at all changed. Instead, he ramped into high gear, and indulged such talk even more so.  Why?  Well, this is my point:

People in the higher socio-economic classes who feel inwardly guilty over the plight of those less privileged than they will invariably attribute functions of abject poverty to those of anything other than abject poverty in order to avoid the guilt they would have to face if they saw these factors for what they are.

The past few days, I have been so angry at both of these old friends of mine, it has really weighed me down.  Because I’m a Christian, I know I have to forgive these guys.  But how do you “forgive” somebody whose behavior never changes?  They seem to act as though there is nothing about themselves that should ever change.  Their money entitles them to all kind of behavior that, if it were me, I would certainly want to take a look at, if somebody pointed it out to me.  

Something tells me that I’m supposed to just let go of the whole idea, but it irks me that they both claim to like my music so much, and yet when it comes down to my financial need to produce this demo, not only will neither of them budge an inch to help me, but they have to attribute my legitimate request for help to some kind of “mental health crisis” or “episode’ on my part.  It just seems that if they were really my friends, they wouldn’t need to belittle me like that.  So I’m bipolar.  So what?  They’re not my damned psychiatrists, for God’s sake.

Here’s the thing about my two old friends that gets me the most: Randy and Roger have never met each other.  Yet they live three blocks apart.    To me, that’s just insane.  How can they possibly be two of my closest friends, and live so close to each other, and over a twenty year period of time never once think it a good idea to meet?   It just makes me sick to think I ever lived the life I once lived.  Being poor isn’t a whole lot more fun than being homeless.  In fact, being homeless was a lot more fun!  If things don’t get better for me financially, if I can’t find another job around here, I think I’ll just pack up and go back to Berkeley and live outdoors.   Why not?

Homeless-ManHere at Friendship Square, I am forced to hang around every felon, ex-con, tweaker and sex offender that my landlord sees fit to rent to.  I’m not like that.  I’m an Artist.  I want to write.  I want my space.  But they won’t give me my space.  Not anymore.  In a little over a year’s time, I somehow, though all I wanted was space, wound up knowing everybody in all forty apartments.  

I’m tired of it.  I want to move forward with my project.  Since I left my job in mid-April, I’ve spent the latter half of each month starving.  Starving!!  Would I be starving on the streets of Berkeley?   Hell no!  In Berkeley, there are thirty-five free meals a week — many of them with unlimited free refills of Pete’s coffee.  And not only that – but in Berkeley, there is inspiration.

I keep trying to pretend that moving indoors was a good thing for me — but it’s not in my blood.   I’m tired of not being able to move forward with my project.  I’m tired of rich people dismissing my need for financial help as some kind of “mental health issue.”  I’m tired of waiting.  I’m tired of having to kiss up to rich guys to make money I need — either for the project — or just to go on living.  I’m sixty-four years old.  I brought up a daughter and a stepdaughter – halfway anyway, or at least I tried.  I’m tired.  I’m old.  I’m tired.  I’m old.  Rich people have everything.  I’m sick of it.

Three more days till I get my pay.  I want to just hit the road.  I want to be me.  I’m tired of living in a box.  I want to be homeless.  I want to be free.   

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

 

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.