Gratitude List 891

My daily gratitude list from, I believe, Friday morning the 17th, two days ago.

1. I realized something when I got up this morning. I used to wake up sleeping on a pile of cardboard outside of the Rubicon East Bay Area Works building, feeling scruffy, scraggly and miserable. Then I’d smoke a couple hits of weed and feel all right. But now, I wake up feeling pretty good, sleeping in my own bed, cranking up my own coffee and computer, and hearing the birds chirping outside my very own window. If I were to smoke a couple hits of weed, I’d feel scruffy, scraggly, and miserable.

2. This is such a positive town.

3. Courtyard Cafe, nice Starbucks coffee, $2.76 full traditional breakfast in five minutes.

4. Ran into Doug, Paul A.’s friend, who works here at the hospital. Very nice guy, all smiles.

5. The cook smiled at me when he saw his “regular” sitting at the usual spot. There was a time when, if I were a regular in a morning breakfast establishment, they’d eye me with caution, and look for a way to kick me out.

6. Heard from Norman that the first track of my Killing Me Softly piano video is still on his phone. It might be better than the 2nd take, and is worth a listen.

7. Naw, just listened all the way through without looking at the guy. It doesn’t get better than that. I’ll mp3 at it A444 and put slight fade on the last A major chord.

8. Heard from Marshall F. who can easily sing the Winston Greene part in “Turns Toward Dawn” in the high tenor octave. Solves a big problem, since now I don’t have to make any weird adjustments in Taura’s range, not to mention they can sing harmonies on thirds now, so long as I find a decent alto with a low belt and medium-high soft head voice for Taura.

9. Hmm.

10. Time for breakfast. Another day flat broke in Paradise. :)

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Gratitude List 869

(1) I was able to finish the remake of my new speech last night, even though it kept me up till 4:30 in the morning.  Grateful for the space and privacy to do such things without disturbing others, or being disturbed.

(2) Jan loves me.

(3) A great way to overcome the bitterness of a troubled past is to indulge the blessings of a promising present.

(4) Somebody made a nice, detailed comment on my piano playing over the weekend.  Grateful to have been trusted enough to be given a key to a church building with a Baldwin grand piano.   There was a time where any effort to play a church piano was met only with concern over “insurance issues” — implying, of course, that I was the type of guy that would do damage to the property.

(5) Nice strong coffee.  Grateful to have my own place of residence and my own coffee-maker.  There was a time when the only reason I went to a 7am A.A. meeting was because it was the only way I could figure out how to get a cup of coffee in the morning.

(6) It was suggested last night that every morning when I wake up, I can “dedicate the day to God.”  It took a while, but I’m thankful to have done so.

(7) Glad to hear that the heat wave will be over on Thursday, which is great timing, since I get paid on Friday.  Thankful for the promise of double blessings, back to back.

(8) Happy to have heard from Alistair Boone, the new Editor-in-Chief of Street Spirit, with the news that I’ll be kept on as a regular montly contributor, in the wake of Terry Messman’s retirement.  

(9) Extremely grateful to no longer be homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area.   I honestly thought I would never be able to live indoors again.

(10) Extremely thankful for the State of Idaho, where my experience has been that people treat each other decently and respectfully — like equals.   Thankful no longer to have to be lectured, ridiculed, dimissed, ostracized, vilified, and looked down upon as though I were not even fully human.  It is incredible to no longer be regarded as a piece of worthless homeless scum.   Thank God for my new and remarkably better life.  I never dreamed it possible — He loves me, after all. 

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Gratitude List 866

(1) Something tells me this is going to be a very productive week.

(2) I slept incredibly soundly last night.

(3) Just now awoke and noticed immediately that I was back in my “usual good mood” — no more of that funk I was in for a few days there.

(4) Coffee was ready without even having to flip a switch.  Tastes good, too!

smiling computer(5) My computer is right here where I left it.   Turned on my tensor lamp and voilà –  the O.G. is ready to roll.

(6) Had a really nice Skype with Howard last night — noticed once again how insightful and good-natured he can be.  This is especially illuminated over the Skype interface, where one can actually see the guy.   Will wonders of technology never cease.

(7) Nice of Norman to have dinner with me at the Co-Op.  Another very insightful and compassionate man.

(8) I am not at a loss for true friends at this time in my life.

(9) This honestly is the best I’ve felt in ages.

(10) I get to meet Jan at the station tonight and walk her back home.  It sure is nice having her around.   The Lord has blessed me so much.   And I can be whom I’ve always wanted to be.   Thank God for the good things in life.

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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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Gratitude List 850

(1) Coffee tastes great this morning.  Once again, it’s nice to be able to get a cup of coffee in my own apartment, having used my very own coffee maker. 

There was a time not too long ago when, if I wanted a morning cup of coffee, I had to wait at the bottom of a church stairway with about forty other people, enduring orders being barked at me by a security guard, being made to feel as though I were a criminal, even though I was a free man with no criminal record.

(2) Somebody left a great Black & Decker coffee maker out by the bin, and my lady friend prepares nice Seattle’s Best coffee every night. 

All I have to do these days if I want a cup of coffee is flip a switch when I get up.  I am truly living the dream.

(3) I think I’ll have my second cup right now.   

There was a time when they denied me a cup of coffee because I didn’t have forty cents, even though I had just played piano in the same building to a group of applauding fans.

(4) I slept in a nice warm bed last night, with the mother of my daughter and the love of my life. 

There was a time when I slept in a tent made of cardboard, worried that the approaching thief would find me, recognize me, and steal everything that I had – with violence.

(5) It’s been almost two years now since Somebody Up There snatched me off of an all-night bus on the S.F.Bay Area Peninsula and set me down in a studio apartment in another State, in a warm-hearted, Art-positive community where people took me seriously from the start.

(6) It used to be that I was widely disrespected, and literally mocked whenever I spoke of my work, or of Music, or of Art, or even of God.  I was thought to be either impudently arrogant or incorrigibly insane if I spoke of anything higher than the widespread assumption that I was nothing more than a worthless piece of homeless scum.  People these days may think I’m an oddball, but it sure is a relief they don’t think that I’m “scum.”

(7) I must never forget that a single 48-hour bus ride and a $200 loan landed me in a community where I was instantly accepted, and nobody doubted my words of truth, nor judged me as a pariah, nor cast me out as a leper.

There was a time when, for the life of me, I could not find anyone who would accept me as I am. 

(8) I have since then wanted to shout to the world that my personality did not change on a single 48-hour bus trip.  And in so many words, I am doing so.  Homelessness is not the problem.  It is the result of the problem.   When the world sees that, it will be a Great Day Indeed.

(9) That man who has not changed still comes across as a ding bat to many, all over the map, hard to follow, maybe even hard to work with, with impulse control issues, and dyslexia, and all kinds of other strange mental processes working against his ability to survive.  But my once and future wife came back to me when she saw this on the Internet, and saw therein the man whom she loved.  The words of the Preacher have never rung more true:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
–Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

(10) After twelve years of struggling to survive on the San Francisco Bay Area streets, I’ve been able to write a full length musical about Homelessness in America, all because I was finally able to get inside.  Yesterday I received the mix of the first song in my demo for that musical, the demo that  it took me months to save up $950 to record.  I worry that my bumbling personality might be a pain in the ass in the eyes of the very orderly engineer who helped me to produce that song.  But that worry is nothing compared to what I and countless other homeless people had to worry about on the streets, in a hole so deep you’d have to live it to know how hard it was to climb out of it.

We were assumed to be criminals.  We were assumed to be, as the singer states, “litter, scum and slime.”  Please help me to get the truth about Homelessness to the People of America.  Please support me in getting this message across, in the manner I know best — before it is too late.

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Gratitude List 790

1. Now I remember why I always used to wake up happy — it was because I used to keep a cold cup of strong coffee at my bedside and chug it instantly upon awakening. I would immediately get into a good mood, and then immediately write down ten things I was grateful for. And then? I would go run five miles around a lake. No wonder I was always happy.

2. I also remember why I stopped doing this. It was because the doctors told me not to. The doctors told me to take some darned pill that’s supposed to help my thyroid a half hour before awakening, even though my thyroid had never bothered me. In that half hour, obviously I became unhappy, because I was denying myself my morning cup of coffee!! Thankful for the great revelation that it was the doctors who made me unhappy!

3. And I am happy now. :)

4. I had slept soundly, though only about 4 1/2 hours till 2:15 am. I noticed in myself an incorrigibly bad attitude. I prayed that God would show me how to improve my attitude. Then I went back at 7:30 and slept 2 1/2 hours till 10 am. Now I am fully refreshed, and in a good mood once again. :)

5. I might get a bicycle. Then I won’t rush from place to place so much when running late.  That said, the local image of this guy in suit and tie wearing a beanie jogging through red lights to get to work in the morning does have a bit of charm to it, no?

6. I see several emails from people I like — Tim, Jan, Holly, Danielle.

7. Just because I am the Artist doesn’t mean I am not fond of the Scientist. I have also noticed that the Scientist and the Artist often have one pleasant thing in common: the Philosopher. This might explain the voice that went through my head some months ago at Shari’s Restaurant: “Let the Philosopher prevail over the Artist.”

8. Sleep is such a healer. I’m glad I’m sleeping again.

9. Stats are suddenly skyrocketing on Eden in Babylon. I must be doing something right.

10. God is not anti-Art. He’s pro-Beauty. And I love Him. And He loves me. He probably even loves doctors, despite how much money they let themselves make and those stupid fancy cars they always brag about. I betcha Dr. Matt doesn’t drive a Ferrari. Besides, he’s the only doctor who’s ever done one thing for me that I know for sure is good. He removed my dystrophic toenail the right way, with the proper anesthetic. The anesthetic I used, I have not used for almost seven months.

So I ain’t movin.’   I’m stayin’ right here, where both of those good things were able to happen. God loves this happy little town — and this happy little town loves me.

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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

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