Gratitude List 1548

(1) A lady from my church came over two days in a row, helped me clean the house, and showed me how to fix the toilet too. I learned all kinds of things about housecleaning that my own mother never taught me. As a result, I’m enthused about maintaining a nicer, cleaner place.

(2) After wrangling over it for three days in a spirit of merciless self-criticism, I have completed the first draft of my fourth column for the five-week series on Spokane Faith and Values. I submitted it to Kurt, the retired linguistics professor (and the man with the beret whom you see in Microcosm.) His edits on my second column were very helpful, and I look forward to more of the same.

(3) Looks like I’m losing weight again.  Haven’t been running so much, but have been enjoying long brisk walks in the morning and at night.  I use them as a time for prayer and reflection.  They also help to deflect the fact that I’ve got a lot of food in my cupboard these days, and that I’ve a tendency to munch.  Grateful, however, not to be going without.

(4) Mixes are starting to come in from our studio session Sunday before last.   New versions of “Hunted,” “Oracle,” and “Turns Toward Dawn” are available.   The last of these three clips is by far the best, earning us a wonderful commendation from the head of the jazz department at the Conservatory.   

(5) Our church met indoors for the first time yesterday.   We still wore masks and social-distanced.  It was well-coordinated and well-attended, and it made me feel warm inside.   I keep getting a sense that something really positive is in the works.  I can’t quite put my finger on it — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

A Homeless Person Has a Life

The second column in my five-week series on homelessness was published yesterday on the religion-oriented site Spokane Faith and Values, where I have been writing throughout the pandemic.  Below is a verbatim transcript of the piece.  

I recently raised a public objection to the notion that I ought to change my phraseology from “homeless” to “houseless” in everything I write. I felt a bit miffed that the person who made this suggestion had never actually lived outdoors.  

But I am someone who has lived outdoors — not just for a while, but for years on end. During those years, I associated largely with others who were in the same boat. I learned how such people generally speak of themselves.   As a result, I use the words “outside” and “outdoors” more than either of the other two–and I feel compelled to explain why.

In a way, I have the same motive as those who wish to replace “homeless” with “houseless.” The word “homeless” has a lot of pejorative connotations.  But both of these words end with “less.” They still suggest that the person who lives outdoors is necessarily lacking something. But this is not always the case.

In my case, after struggling in and out of untenable living situations in the San Francisco Bay Area for seven years, I made a conscious choice on April 15, 2011 to join an intentional homeless community. While most of us had experienced a crisis that led to a loss of residence, we unanimously believed that to live outdoors was the lesser of evils. For one thing, we found it preferable to live outside rather than to pay exorbitant rental fees for acceptable living situations (not to mention paying decent rent for unacceptable situations). 

In short, we had a heck of a time finding living situations in the Bay Area that were both affordable and acceptable. So for the time being, we were content to stay outdoors. 

It was there that I found the language most prevalent among all who shared my predicament. This was a simple exchange between the words “inside” and “outside.” If someone had a roof over their head, we said they were “inside.” If they didn’t, they were “outside.” This is how homeless people speak of themselves in the Bay Area. It’s also how they speak of themselves in Moscow, Idaho. And while I have never been homeless in Spokane, I wouldn’t doubt that this parlance is common there as well.

Is there a reason for this linguistic preference? I think there is. It speaks to the essential difference between two disparate camps. Some people have roofs over their heads, and some people don’t. Furthermore, there is nothing morally wrong with sleeping outside — so long as one is not sleeping on someone else’s property.  The landmark decision in Martin v. Boise would seem to support this.

This leads nicely into the second of the seven inequities I have wanted to discuss.

A Homeless Person Does Have a Life 

It was often assumed that, because we had wound up homeless, all of the conclusions we had drawn throughout our entire life span were in need of revision.

This led to an amusing observation. If a person had been a lifelong conservative, and they became homeless, that person was supposed to “become a liberal.” Why? Because the liberal social workers were feeding them.

If a person had been a liberal all their lives, and they became homeless, they were often told that they should “become a conservative.” Why?   Because the Salvation Army was feeding them. 

How many people in those days approached me in order to proselytize their particular version of Christianity? Very many. How many people asked me first if I already knew Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior? Very few. 

This imbalance appears to have evolved from some of the preconceptions I discussed last week. It was rarely considered that someone might have become homeless due to a lack of tenable housing. It was almost universally assumed that they became homeless because there was something wrong with them.

Homelessness is Not a Disease

In the rooms of 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, there are many “clichés” or sayings intended to assist people who have hit huge “bottoms” in their lives. One of these is: “Your best thinking got you here.”  That statement is then followed by suggestions as to how the recovering addict or alcoholic might change their way of thinking, in accordance with the 12 steps.

I can understand how this would apply to the enormous losses one might incur through drug addiction or alcoholism. People do “drink themselves out of house and home.” Many people with drug problems wind up alienating friends and family, as well as landlords. Many do wind up outdoors. This cannot be denied.

But here I found myself having consciously chosen homelessness as the lesser of evils in a precarious life-situation that had yet to be resolved.  Numerous people approached me saying, in effect:”Your best thinking got you into this position. I have suggestions how you might change your way of thinking.”

I felt like saying: “I agree that my best thinking got me into this position.  But you have never been in this position; therefore you cannot advise me as to how to get out of it.” 

This is how the details of homelessness differ radically from the details of drug addiction or alcoholism. The A.A. member who makes that suggestion is a recovering alcoholic and does have valuable information to share.  But the person who, having always living indoors, makes such a suggestion to a homeless person, has no relevant personal experience. Therefore their suggestions, however well-intended, are not often useful.

This disparity — or inequity or imbalance — is something that can be solved through better communication. But before we can even begin to make that effort, we need to dignify, not only the homeless human being, but the homeless experience itself.

In short, there is nothing wrong with being homeless.

We need to understand this simple truth, and to have it acknowledged far and wide. Look how many people are on the streets! Despite the best efforts of all involved, that number is only bound to increase — especially now, when more people than ever are losing their homes.

We need to stop moralizing, and start accepting. We need to stop obligating people who sleep outside toward quick entries into undignified indoor living situations.  Homelessness is neither a crime nor a disease. We need to stop criminalizing the homeless, and we need to stop treating them as though they are sick. 

If we cannot truly help them to get inside, let us please make it easier for them to live outdoors.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1654

(1) Taking a week off from EIB rehearsals was just about the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time. I caught up on my sleep as well as on reading and housecleaning. Was also able to devote more time to my daughter and to my friends. Grateful for the power of rest.

(2) The first column in the five week series is beginning to take off, surprisingly enough. Though the essential message — having to do with stigma — is a challenge to articulate, I have confidence that after five weekly columns, I’ll have gotten the point across. Grateful for the opportunity.

(3) I’ve sold five new From a Distance piano albums already. Taking the cash bit by bit to the Dollar Store for groceries is reminiscent of a former time of thrift, when all throughout the 90’s I took my tip money four nights a week to a Lucky grocery store after getting off my regular gig at Gulliver’s Restaurant. Never had a food bill in those days, never had to go to a food bank, never went hungry.

(4) I was a new man when I arrived at the recording session yesterday. The spirit of professionalism was striking, and we nailed “Turns Toward Dawn” on the 3rd take. The way that Liam and Cody work together, both with expertise in their respective fields, neither having known the other before a few short weeks ago, is beyond impressive. After the session, we ran “Oracle.” This was the first time I’ve accompanied it since Cody took over teaching the choral parts, and it rocked. I was blessed — I was jazzed — I was proud.

(5) Grateful for my church, where I’ve been a member now for over 4 1/2 years. They have supported me in my best and put up with me in my worst. Very thankful for my new life in Idaho, after years of struggling on the San Francisco Bay Area streets.

Don’t lose faith. Promise yourself that you will be a success story, and I promise you that all the forces of the universe will unite to come to your aid; you might not feel it today or for a while, but the longer you wait the bigger the prize.   — George Bernard Shaw  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1652

(1) Health and self-care have been distinctly better since having finally finished a very challenging and unanticipated task. Actually got eight hours sleep the night before last, and six hours last night. Starting to run again – did three miles in the snow with my NanoSpikes. Sat down to meditate thereafter, and though I slept through most of the twenty minutes, it still seemed beneficial.

(2) Finished the first column for the five-week series on Spokane Faith and Values. Completed a draft of the second column, which I’m about to edit and submit. Grateful for the opportunity.

(3) It was nice to hear my daughter introduce me to a friend of hers yesterday by saying: “This is my dad Andy.  He was on the streets for like thirteen years and now he’s a published journalist and widely respected, and they’re producing a musical he wrote about youth homelessness.”  (A bit hyperbolic on both ends, but still nice to hear.) Grateful for a daughter who is proud of me.

(4) Big night tonight, if Cooper doesn’t get snowed out on the mountainous 30 mile drive.  Five musicians and five singers are going to be gathering with sound engineer and all kinds of recording equipment, hopefully to record “Sirens of Hope” and “Turns Toward Dawn” before we lose Cooper to a lead in a TV series.   (Asking for prayer).  

(5) Observed a very restful Sabbath on Saturday, which no doubt contributed to the unprecedented eight hours of sleep.  One thing I did do was fix the ending to Desperado.  It was a labor of love as opposed to all the stressful stuff that constitutes “work” in our high-pressure, fast-paced society.  You might check it out — we all need to let Somebody love us — before it’s too late.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, power and grace. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 98

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Self-doubt.

Q. Isn’t that a good thing?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Well, why should you have any faith in yourself?

A. Why should I not?

Q. Are you not completely flawed far beyond your capacity even to know it?

A. That’s what the Bible says, yes.  But still, I think in practical reality, it somehow doesn’t help for me to grasp how completely incapable I am.

Q. But isn’t God fully capable?

A. Well sure He is.  But so what?   God’s not going to come down and tie my shoe for me.  There are some things a person just has to do for themselves.

Q. How many times has God come down and helped you find a missing item?

A. Many times.  Sometimes I just shout out: “Where’s my glasses?” Then I find myself looking straight at them.   But He still won’t help me tie my shoe.

Q. Are you having a problem tying your shoes?

A. Not anymore.  Not since I’m no longer being ridiculed about the way I tie them.

Q. Who used to ridicule you?

A. Oh, the kids on the playground.

Q. Wasn’t that a long time ago?

A. Yeah, but it stuck with me.

Q. So what did the kids say when they ridiculed you?

A. Apparently, I’m throwing some kind of extra movement into the tying of the shoe that doesn’t need to be there.  They laughed because I don’t tie my shoes the right way.   I only tie them my way.

Q. But your way still works, doesn’t it?

A. More-or-less.  I do notice I have to bend down and retie them a lot.

Q. And what else do you notice?

A. Sometimes I forget to tie them entirely.  I just go about walking with them untied.

Q. Then what happens?

A. Depends on whether I’m alone or with another person.  If I’m alone, I just wait until there’s a logical place to tie my shoe without having to bend down all the way to the ground.  Like, you know, a fire hydrant.  Then I tie my shoe using the hydrant.

Q. What if there’s another person with you?

A. Usually, they notice that my shoe isn’t tied, and they tell me to tie my shoe.

Q. What do you do then?

A. Well, I certainly don’t tie it just because they told me to!   I usually respond with an expletive, adding that I’ll tie my shoe when I’m good and ready.   

Q. Do you have issues with authority?

A. I have issues with people issuing direct imperatives, yes.   Especially if they are not an authority, but an equal.

Q. Are authorities not equals?

A. I suppose they are.  They just don’t act like it.

Q. So you dislike not being treated as an equal?

A.  Dislike doesn’t say it.  I despise it.  We’re all equals and no one has the right to treat someone as a subordinate.  Unless, of course, you’re in the military or some other form of hierarchical structure to which you’ve signed on.  And in such a case, you asked for it.

Q. You did?  What if you got drafted?

A. Good point.   I’d have escaped to Canada, myself.

Q. Might you still?

A. Might I still what?

Q. Escape to Canada?

A. At this point, that would hardly be an escape.  More like a practical maneuver.  But I doubt they’d let me in.  I think I have to marry someone there, or something like that.

Q. Would you like to marry someone from Canada?

A. Sounds pretty romantic, but probably unlikely.    

Q. What about a marriage of convenience?

A. I wouldn’t know anything about those.  I’ve only been in a marriage of inconvenience.

Q. What was inconvenient about it?

A. Uh — conflict of lifestyles.   But aren’t we getting off the subject?

Q. What was the subject?

A. Something about equality and authority.

Q. Ah yes, how could I forget?

A. I have no idea.

Q. So — as I was saying, do you dislike being treated as an unequal?

A. Of course!  Who likes to be treated with condescension?  

Q. Why is this on your mind?

A. Something disturbing that happened a few days ago.   An unpleasant interaction with an old friend of mine.

Q. Who did not treat you as an equal?

A. Well – triggered the memory thereof.  The memory of —  almost never being regarded as an equal.  A time in my life when I just accepted the uneasy fact that most people looked down on me, as though I were despicable.

Q. Why would you have been despicable?

A. Uh — homeless — and homeless in the Big City.   It’s cold enough in the Big City to begin with.  When you become homeless, you find out just how cold it can be.

Q. But you’re not homeless now, are you?

A. No I’m not.

Q. Why are you so hung up on the past?

A. That, sir, might be the most important question you have ever asked me.

The Questioner is silent.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1645

(1) The other day when I was running, it crossed my mind how great it is for people to recognize the reason why I’m running — that is, for health and exercise.   In my previous life, up until a few short years ago, if someone saw me running, they generally assumed I was a criminal who had just committed a crime and was running from the law.

(2) Although I will admit to having been intimidated by the prowess of the highly skilled musicians in whose company I have suddenly found myself, I can truthfully say that I am much more enthused than intimidated at this stage.  I’m grateful for the great musicians who think well enough of my music to want to help me bring it to life.

(3) Grateful for my apartment.  I’ve lived here quietly for over three years now.  It’s a true place of shelter from the storm.   I’m grateful I’m not homeless anymore.  It took its toll, but it’s a relief not to be living in all that chaos.   Grateful for peace and quietude.  

(4) This may sound weird, but I’m grateful for the wake-ups that sometimes come my way.  There were a couple of them this past week.  They don’t feel good, but they are good — because they happen for a reason.   And once again, at the risk of sounding prejudicial or stigmatic, I am extremely grateful no longer to be living in California, and more than grateful to have discovered North Idaho.

(5) This Christmas Day was really the best one I’d had in years.  I think it’s because I lowered my expectations so completely, I didn’t even expect it to be a bad Christmas, let alone a good one.  The exchange of well wishes all throughout the day made Christmas what it ought to be — the hope of peace on earth and goodwill toward all.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Evolution of a Song: Part Three

So I mentioned somewhere along the line — either in Part One or Part Two, I suppose – that I had decided to write an opera in the year 2009.

The opera I would call Eden in Babylon.   I only wrote the first Act, as it happened, before I burned out on the idea that Eden in Babylon was supposed to be an opera, and not just a regular old musical.

The first Eden in Babylon was quite different.   It had nothing to do with homelessness.   Instead of entering into homelessness after the first two scenes, the main character entered into a fantasy world of the imagination.   Really, only the title remains, as the show has changed its context so much.

In that realm of imagination lived a woman named Helzabel, who objected to all things beautiful.   She held Artists in particular disdain, since they often created the very beauty to which she objected.   The song she sang, Cloaks of Art, played with the biblical concept called “cloaks of maliciousness.”  (1 Peter 2:16 KJV.)

But now that Eden in Babylon had become a musical about homelessness, that fantastical realm where Helzabel dwelt was replaced by the realm of the streets.   And Helzabel became Molly Mortalis — suspicious not so much of Artists, but of people who had become homeless.   A similar character of a similar sentiment — in a wildly different world.

This called for wildly different lyrics.   And a major tune-up on the tune.   So without too much hemming or hawing. I came up with Midnight Screams.

I wonder how many people who read this will actually listen to Cloaks of Art and tell me how much, or how little, it resembles Midnight Screams?”  As for “Child of No Emotion,” the variant in Part One, I’m afraid you will never hear it.   That libretto, I fear, is gone.

But the music lives on.   These three abide — Book, Music, and Lyrics.  But the greatest of these is Music.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

 

Gratitude List 1560

(1)  Grateful for a decent six hours of solid sleep after running in the evening last night.  Glad I’ve been sleeping reasonably well lately, in general.

(2)  Painlessly did the 2 1/2 mile course at around sunset yesterday.   I’m definitely both eating less and running more these days.   At this stage, that’s something to be grateful for.  

(3) Amazing that the two new singer-actors K. & C. have emerged, desiring to portray the male and female antagonists in a Scene Two audition preparation.   They’re even learning the song together.   (True that I had something to do with this happening — being as I was the one who asked them if they were interested.   But still, I find it wonderful that two very talented people like K. & C. would actually be interested.)   I’m feeling a lot of gratitude that almost everything that’s happened lately with respect to the musical has been really positive and encouraging.

(4) I gotta say I’m grateful for Finale 26  music notation software and for the very sophisticated Audacity freeware that I use to edit sound files.   I’ve been refining the interactive tracks for the opening number and the second number, and moving on to the third.   I’m grateful to have such an interesting and meaningful project to be working on.

(5) In seven days, God willing, I will have lived in this city and spent every night indoors — usually all alone, usually in quietude, in a dwelling place of my own choosing — for four entire years.  Five years ago I’d have never dreamed it possible.  Oh, I dreamed it all right — but I never thought it would actually happen.  I and everyone else I knew assumed I would die a miserable death in a Bay Area gutter.   Instead, I am a healthy and happy man today.   I am very grateful that I am no longer homeless. 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

 

Gratitude List 1555

(1) Stocked up on groceries last night during the wee hours.   Glad I didn’t postpone it much longer, it already being the 6th.  Enjoyed a brisk two mile walk to Winko’s, and took a cab back with multiple bags.  Seeing all the food in my cupboard gives me a great sense of abundance.   Chances are, I won’t go hungry for another month — and for that I am grateful.   

(2)  I had begun to think the players were drifting again, but now it appears we’ve been able to manifest a major rehearsal on Tuesday.   The idea is to be ready to film our respective videos on site, and thus successfully add new female back-up vocals to the piece we’re working on.  I suspect it will all come together by Friday.  

(3) Good thing the Kids didn’t resurface for rehearsal till when they did, because in the interim I heard something fantastic in my head.  It’s a beautiful adjustment to the back-up harmonies — much more authentic than the previous harmonies.   Whereas before, I had constructed the harmonies almost arbitrarily according to my knowledge of four-part theory, now the true harmonies are emerging from a place that transcends four-part theory.   (And the Kids show up just in time to sing them!)  

(4) Paid the rent, did the laundry, and am putting things in place.   Enjoying the vigor of  hunkering down for another month of sheltering in a place of my own choosing.

(5) Getting ready for a 7-mile bike ride, for which last night’s brisk 2 mile walk was like a warm-up.  Looking forward to my morning run tomorrow.   When I lived outdoors, I used to feel this rush of gratitude every time I happened to get inside and have a place to myself for a while.   Now I live indoors — and since sheltering in place I’ve discovered that same rush of gratitude every time I step outside to exercise alone.   The Lord works in strange and mysterious ways.  

“Let us temper our criticism with kindness. None of us comes fully equipped.”
—  Carl Sagan  

 

Gratitude List 1510

1. The main thing that I’m grateful for, in the midst of this worldwide trial, is that I have realized how sweet it is for me to be more of a homebody. As I slowly begin to make my abode a more pleasing place to dwell, I remember — bit by bit — all kinds of visions, dreams, and prayers from a former time, when I was homeless. Thoughts of how I would fix up my home if ever I would be so lucky as to live inside again.

2. Another thing that has been a blessing is this. Rather than feel a need to rush to get out the door to get to church in the morning, I can slow down, take my time, and listen to sermons being filmed in empty sanctuaries all over the world.

3. The impact of COVID-19 has also rekindled an athletic spirit that somehow, throughout time, I have lost. Three days ago I ran three miles before sunset, faster and more freely than usual. Yesterday I did a nine mile bike ride before sunset. A rhythm of cross-training is unfolding: walk, run, bike; walk, run, bike – in 3 day patterns.

4. Producing an interactive version of Eden in Babylon is also an idea that would never have come to any of us who have struggled for nearly a year and a half now to overcome all the obstacles toward a live stage production. And yet, it brings out the best in me and others, in a way that a live stage show could never have done.

5. In believing that a cure will be found, and encouraging us all to pray in that direction, maybe history will show that this is a time when all of us and our families chose to turn inward for reflection, and turn to God Above for guidance.  We may find in the process that we have become the best people we can possibly be. There is always hope — and hope has seen the human race through trial after trial since time immemorial. We of the planet Earth are not a people who ever gives up hope.

“Jesus looked at them and said: “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”     — Matthew 19:26 BSB

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

Tuesday Tuneup 56

finest work

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Getting ready.

Q. For what?

A. For a change in policy.

Q. Why does your policy need to change?

A. Because it’s ineffective.

Q. How is it ineffective?

A. Why don’t you just ask me what the policy is?

Q. Why should I ask you that?

A. Because you will then be able to determine for yourself why it is ineffective.

Q. Very well, then.  What is your current policy?

A. Reckless Abandon.

Q. With respect to what?

A. With respect to Art.

Q. How so?

A. I create continuously.   I create without letup or rest.  I create like a crazed maniac.   But I only create at random.  There is no order, nor rhyme nor reason, to the manner in which I create.

Q. Can you provide a specific example?

A. Yes.  The talks I gave recently, and the blog post I wrote as to how PTSD relates to the Homeless Experience.   This was random.  It was not something I intended to do according to a concrete creative plan.  It just sort of — happened — when I was moved to do so.

Q. And a second example?

A. The piano album I created, called Abandon.  It resulted from a comment someone had made that intrigued me.  I took off on that comment, until an entire piano album had been produced.

Q. Is this a bad thing?

A. Not in and of itself, no.

Q. Then why do you need to change the policy?

A. Because these creative endeavors have been keeping me from fully engaging a far more important creative task.

Q Which is?

A. The 4th Draft of my musical Eden in Babylon, and the 2nd draft of its musical score.

Q. Have you been procrastinating?

A. Yes.  But I prefer to frame it a bit differently.

Q. How so?

A. It’s not so much procrastination as it is preparation.  

Q. How can procrastination be preparation?

Labor of Love – A Semester’s Reflection | Kelsey BrannanA. It’s like so.  When I procrastinate, I engage my creative energies in a way that pleases me.  It is not what I have to do.  It is what I want to do.   In doing so, I practice creating out of desire, not out of obligation.   Then, when I cease to procrastinate, the desire to create remains — for I have practiced it.

Q. Do you mean to tell me that when you implement the new change in policy, the Object of your Creative Desire will immediately be changed?

A. Yes.  When the clock strikes midnight tonight, the Object of my Artistic Affection will be altered. It will no longer have anything to do with homelessness, or PTSD, or even blogging, for that matter.  Nor will it involve my piano playing.  It will instead return to what it was before I deviated off onto those artistic tangents.

Q. In other words, at the stroke of midnight, you will immediately reactivate the desire to work on your musical?

A. Not exactly.  It’s already been activated.  I just haven’t begun to do it yet.

Q. Why not?

A. Because it isn’t time yet.  It happens at midnight tonight.

Q. Why?

A. Because it’s been scheduled that way.

Q. Why adhere so strictly to the schedule?

A. You want the whole rundown?

Q. Why not?

Funny sublimation designs downloads quote funny Not | EtsyA. Very well then.  To be honest with you, when we suspended operations on the project, I became depressed.  I blamed myself for falling short.   I remained depressed for eleven days.  And I accomplished nothing.

Then I decided to deal with the depression in my typical, lifelong fashion.  I would hurl myself full force into various artistic endeavors.  But I wouldn’t work on the musical, because it was too depressing to think about it.

In the process of working on these less pertinent, less relevant side projects, I became happy again.   And now that I am happy, and longer depressed, I will resume working on the musical, and be happy doing so.

Q. So you’re trying to tell me that the same project that earlier depressed you will now make you happy?

A. Yes.

Q. Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. Probably because you’re either not an Artist, or you don’t know me very well, or both.

Q. May I ask a question that might insult you?

A. At your own risk, ask away.  

Q. Why do you think you can pull it off?

A. Because my name is Andy Pope.   Any further questions?

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Tuesday Tuneup 37

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater ease.

Q. Is something making you uneasy?

A. Many things make me uneasy.

Q. Like what?

A. Well, for one thing, I made a New Year’s Resolution.  I’m keeping it, but it just seems forced.  It’s not easy.

Q. Are resolutions ever easy?

A. Probably not.

Q. Then why fret?

A. Because of — the nature of the resolution, and the specific temptations to break it.

Q. What are you tempted to do?

A. I’m tempted to continually contact my old friends in California, in order to try to prove myself to them.   In fact, I’m tempted to scream and yell at them, and to call them very nasty names.

Q. You haven’t actually done that, have you??

A. Not recently, no.  In times past, perhaps.

Q. Then can’t you just relax, knowing you’ve kept your resolution?

A.  No,  I can’t.  That’s the whole point.  I’m not at ease.   How can I relax, when I have all these horrible feelings toward my old friends?

Q. What horrible feelings?

A. Anger, resentment, bitterness, rage, and hostility — to name a few.

Q. You feel all those things toward your old friends?

A. Yes.

Q, Why?

A. Because they think they care about me, but they don’t.  This thing that they call “caring” is actually disrespect.  

Q. But how can caring be confused for disrespect? 

A. All right.  Let me explain.  Take this one guy I’ll call Richard.  He keeps insisting that he cares deeply about me.  But all his caring is only a put-down.  No matter how positively I express myself, he always finds something negative about it, and then acts as though illuminating the negative is caring.   

Q. Would you call this chap a bubble-burster?

A. I would call him names much worse than that, were it not for my resolution.

Q. Why do you think he is finding fault in the things that you think are positive?

A. Because he’s a fault-finder. 

Q. But what specifically does he find faulty?

A. Well – I think he objects to the pace at which I proceed.  Recently he suggested I ought to “slow down.”  He also said I come across as though I’m trying to “make up for lost time.”

Q. What’s so bad about that?

A. Look what it suggests.  First off, he assumes that all my years of homelessness were “lost time.”  Those happen to be the years that have provided the entire impetus for my work.  “Lost time??”  What the hell kind of concept is that?  Is any time ever lost?  Isn’t all life experience valuable?

Q. But you do see what he meant, don’t you?

A. Sure I do!   And that is what’s so insulting.  This guy has actually gone so far as to say things like “Forget about all those homeless people!”  Forget about them??  What am I supposed to do, wipe out twelve of the most meaningful years of my life, and all the many conversations with the numerous fine individuals I met on the streets?  How dehumanizing!  It’s the exact attitude I so fervently oppose!

Not to mention, Richard never recognizes that I wrote my finest music when I was homeless.  Sure, I couldn’t sequence it — I couldn’t hang on to a laptop down there, or to music production software.  But I wrote it, didn’t I?   So how does that make my time “lost?”

Q. Well, wasn’t it just a figure of speech?  Don’t you think he probably meant it was lost for the very reason that you lacked those resources?

A.  Figure of speech?   P.O.T.U.S. told Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes that he “loves” Kim Jong and then wrote off the word “love” as a “figure of speech.”  And as far as time being “lost” because of my having been disadvantaged and underprivileged, that’s only a typical dismissal of the dignity and humanity of human beings who happen to be homeless.  They call homeless people “lost” because they lack advantage.  As though anyone who lacks privilege is “lost” — as though they got that way because of “poor choices they made” — as though it’s a moral failing to be down and out.

Q. Wow – don’t you think you’re reading a lot into it?

A. No, I don’t!  You see, I know this guy.  I know him better than he knows himself.  And not just him, but everyone like him.  All my old friends.  They have so much privilege, they base their self-worth on it.  And they look down upon people who lack privilege, because that’s the only way they can live with their absolute emptiness of spirit.  

Q. Emptiness of spirit?

A. You heard me!  When it comes right down to it, they’re basically going to hell.  They cannot possibly manifest Everlasting Life, because there is no true life in their spirits.  

Q.  But – but – aren’t a lot of these people Christians?

A. They say they are.  And they may even think they are.  But so what?   What does calling yourself a Christian have to do with the Real Life of the Spirit?   I know plenty of people who don’t identify as “Christians,” and I can tell for sure that they have Life.  

Q. In the, er, fervor with which you make such claims, can you not grasp that there is a very real sense in which you truly are “making up for lost time?”  

A. And what sense is that, may I ask?  “Making up for lost time” makes it sound as though I’m on a mad rush to get things done quickly, as though the grave were just around the corner.  To frame it that way completely overlooks the joyfulness of the process!  I don’t write all these words and music and make all these speeches because I’m a stress case, for crying out loud!  I do it because this is what I love to do, and it is what I am called to do.  

Q. But — but — if you’re not a stress case, why are you so stressed out?

A. That’s a rhetorical question.

Q. But it’s true, isn’t it?   Didn’t you begin this very dialectic with an admission of your not being “at ease?” 

A. All right, you win.  Yes, there’s stress.  I’m not going to deny it.  It’s why we’re here.  I wish things were a bit more certain, and I weren’t having to shoot so far into the dark.  I know I have the calling, I hear the call clearly — but I often can’t tell where it’s headed.  And yes, this uncertainty results in stress.  

Q. Uncertainty?  How can you possibly claim to be uncertain?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Isn’t it obvious?  Don’t you clearly come across as one of the most convicted, self-assured people on the planet?  What could be more certain?

A. My path.  My direction.  Where I’m headed exactly could be much more certain.   Much more easy on my spirit.  

Q. Now why do I find all this so hard to believe?

A. I don’t know.  Why do you?

Q. Well, didn’t this blog post come pretty easily to you?

A. I suppose it did.  I’ve been hammering out pretty rapidly with very little editing.  It’s been a joyful process.  Can’t exactly say it came hard.  

Q. Well then, what is the essence of the dis-ease?   Why are you still uneasy?

A. It’s — it’s those guys again — my old friends — the people with whom I wish I could share my current joy, the way I always used to share it with them.   They’ve either disappeared on me, or they come back at me with assault and vitriol.   They — they — they don’t get it — they don’t see me for who I am — and it’s frustrating because — these were my lifelong friends — they weren’t supposed to just abandon me like this . . 

Q. But have they truly abandoned you?  What about this fellow Richard?  Isn’t he actually very much engaged with you?   

A. Engaged, yes — but in the wrong way.  They only keep criticizing me!  They sit around and gossip, and smoke their weed, and place bets as to when I’m going to have my first heart attack.  

Q. Then why do you remain so attached to these unsupportive old friends of yours?

A. That’s the whole problem.  It’s why I’m not at east.  These are birth bangs.  The woman in Revelation Chapter Twelve cries out with travail as she is about to give birth to the New Child.  And the dragon awaits her, right outside her womb, to devour it — if it were possible.

Q. Who is the New Child?

A. In Scripture, we know this to be the Christ Child.  But anybody with a calling, with a life-purpose, has their own baby.   In my case, it’s my musical.  It’s going to fly.  I can feel it!   The Woman is bringing birth to it, even as we speak.

Q. And who is the Woman?

A. (chuckles) I need not say.

Q. And the dragon?

A. Symbolically, in this case, the enemy.   The Resister.

Q. But don’t you need the Resister in order to move forward?

A. Yes!  That’s it!  I need these guys!  I need their criticism in order to move forward!  I need these gossipy, lame-ass old friends of mega-privilege who don’t even have purposes in life other than to guzzle down more and more money, faster and faster, as though their lives depended on it.  I need them.  You’ve got it once again.  Perfect!!  I need these guys.  How could I have been so blind?

Q. Uh — you say you need these guys??

A. I do!  I need to prove them wrong.  I have to fight them in all their money-loving arrogance with all my impoverished Art-loving, Christ-loving heart!   And that’ll show ’em!

Q. Show ’em what?

A. What do you think?

The Questioner is silent.  

When They Ignore You Quotes. QuotesGram

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

The Dialectic (Part Two)

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. That depends.

Q. On what?

A. On what day it is and what mood I’m in.

Q. And what day is this?

A. It’s the Day of Reckoning.

Q. Day of Reckoning?

A. Well – perhaps not in the strictest sense.  That day is in God’s hands, not mine.  But in my own limited realm of self, I essentially have reached the place where something has got to happen, or else I just know  – from knowing myself — that I might implode.

Q. What would “imploding” entail?

A. I don’t know, man.  Some kind of total breakdown.  I’ll think of something.

Q. So you secretly *want* to implode?

A. Of course not!

Q. Then how can you avoid it?

A. That’s a good question.  I would say, by coming to terms with my issues of frustration.  Not so much anger issues — that would be true in a different sense, in a different context — but issues of frustration.   Frustration, and — confusion.

Q. Can you elaborate, please?

A. I will try.

Sad man silhouette worried on the beach

In certain sects of Buddhism, we are taught that frustration and confusion are the natural states operative in the human condition.  I resonate within this framework, to a degree.  I find that they work in concert with each other, within me.  My oft-expressed frustration with my professional and creative challenges seems to be proportional to the confusion I have as to how best to actualize my artistic goals.   Take this musical, for example, Eden in Babylon.

There are basically two ways I could go about this.  One way would be to complete my package, including a vocal score, demo of three songs with instrumentation and vocals, and complete libretto — or musical script — and submit the package to theatre companies interested in producing original musicals.  I have a few companies in mind, several of which include people with whom I’ve worked in the past, people who respect me enough that they will probably prioritize taking a look at my work.    This way of going about it would cost me considerably less money than the second way.

Q. What’s the second way?

A. I was just getting to that.  It involves coming up with a budget of about $50,000 and self-producing the show.

Q. Roughly speaking, how would that $50,000 be spent?

A. First off, I would find a theatre of sufficient size to accommodate a 27-member cast and small orchestra, as well as (perhaps more importantly) a moderately large audience.  Let’s say, about a 400-seat house.   Included in the budget would be the rental rates for a run of, say, twelve performances — ten evenings, and two matinees.  

Q. What next?

A. Hire the production staff.  I would need to pay a technical director, a stage manager, an ASM, a musical director, a rehearsal accompanist, perhaps a separate conductor and/or vocal director, a choreographer, a lighting designer, a set designer, a costumer, a props master, and a few other stage hands and gophers.  Oh – and a director.

Q. And then?

A. Auditions.  Although there would probably only be a mild stipend available for most of the Actors, the cast quality would be strengthened if we included at least three Equity Actors, hopefully reputable, popular Actors and Actresses.   In fact, I would even call people I know, people with whom I have worked in the past, to check their availability, if need be.

Q. So the Actors you have in mind would need to be available during the period when the theater has been rented?

A. Yes.  During the run.  I might even try to get the run to coincide with the prior availability of somebody whom I want very badly — for example, the main character, Winston Greene.   

Q. Any ideas who can do that?

A. The ideas are brewing, but not yet solidified.  We need a dynamic rock tenor capable of coming across like a 23-year old man.  And there are certain other requirements.   Could be a challenge.  But he’s out there somewhere.   

Q. What about the other main characters?

A. I have two people in mind for two of the supporting female roles, but nobody specifically lined up for the female lead, Taura.  Both the male and female leads will probably need to be AEA along with the male antagonist: Benzo Diablo.

Q.Benzo Diablo?

A. It’s a play on words.  If you’ve ever taken a valium, you probably know what I mean.

Q. Now why would I ever do a thing like that?

A. I don’t know – that’s up to you.

Q. Well, this is mounting up monetarily.  But don’t you think $50,000 is a little steep?

A. Not at all.  We need props and set pieces.   I may need to hire a Master Carpenter.   Lights might be provided with the theatre itself, but there will also be technical effects.  It adds up.  I can do it on $50,000 — and do it well.

Q. What will be your own role in the production?

A. As the Author, it stands to reason I should be somewhat detached.   I would want my presence felt, but not in such a way as might interfere.  Moreover, I would like to come see the show, and not to have to be involved with performances. Perhaps I would be the Accompanist, Vocal Director (but not conductor) or even the Artistic Director.  Of the three, Vocal Director is my forte.   But any one of those positions would enable me to actually come and see the show on Opening Night, perhaps even with a date.

Q. Aren’t you dreaming?

A. I am indeed.  But what does the Bible say?

Q. I don’t know — what does it say?

A. It says:

And your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.
Joel 2:28

Q. Are you an old man, Andy?

A. Well, I sure ain’t gettin’ any younger.  I might be putting a little wear and tear on the old running shoes, but sometimes I feel like the only race I’m running is the race against against Alzheimer’s trying to get this show on the road.

Q. Do I detect a wee bit of impatience?

A. What you are detecting is Awareness of Mortality!

Q. And when you were younger?

A. I saw visions.   This is one of them.  My dream is for others to see it, too.

Q. But wouldn’t the first way be easier?

A. Not necessarily.   For one thing, it’s proven more difficult to get singers interested in helping me make a demo for a show that no one knows will ever be produced, than it naturally would be for one that had a definite production schedule.  In fact, with definite production dates, after holding auditions, I might not even bother with the demo.  Not to mention, there would be a lot of compromise in taking the less expensive route.  Compromise – and working intensively, sometimes intimately, with others.  Multiple conflicts of interest, and strange bedfellows abounding.

Q. But wouldn’t $50,000 be a considerable chunk of change?  I mean, how likely is it that you, Andy Pope, who has been homeless throughout most of the 21st Century, will actually come up with $50,000?

A. Oh, it’s very likely indeed.  For I have taken this matter to a spiritual level – not only to my pastor and close spiritual confidantes, but all the way to the Top!

Q. To the Top!?

A. You heard me.

Q. Really?  The Top?!?

A. Is there an echo in here?

Q. But aren’t you being a bit — grandiose?

A. Grand?  Yes.  Grandiose?  Perhaps.   Delusional, however, as in “delusions of grandeur” — no way, buddy boy!  This type of grandeur is written in the Stars.

Q. You seem a shade more — confident than usual.   What about confusion?  What about — frustration?

A. Very good questions indeed.   These truths, my friend, are for me to know – and for you to find out.

TO BE CONTINUED

A House Divided

Q. Back so soon?

A. I promise there won’t be more than a third time before the weekend’s out.

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. I think so.  More so than I did yesterday, anyway.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. Insecurity and uncertainty as to my path.  Stuff that has to be resolved.

Q. What stuff?

A. Work-related.  And spiritual.

Q. To what work do you refer?

A. My life’s work.   A calling I feel I have been shirking.

Q. What calling?

A. It  has to do with classism in America, especially as seen through the eyes of one who has been fortunate enough to have been homeless for many years in an urban area of great social and racial tension, and to have escaped it and been granted the great gift of solitude in a favorable social and racial climate.

Q. How have you been shirking this calling?

A. In two ways that I can think of.

Q. First?

A. First, by throwing my energy toward projects that, while inviting, do not pertain to the calling.

Q. Such as?

A. This novel I’m compelled to write.  I wrote a first chapter, and sketched the second and third chapters.  Sent Chapter One to my Writers’ Guild, who will critique it this morning.

Q. Are you afraid of their criticism?

A. Yes.  I’m afraid they might like it.  And if they like it, I will be tempted to pursue it.  But it has nothing to do with what I am supposed to be about right now.

Q. How do you know this?

A. When I am working on what I am supposed to be about, eventually something comes over me — like chills.  Sometimes the chills engulf my entire body.  They seem to come from some place far beyond my normal experience of human consciousness.  I get this sense of inspiration – of privilege and honor.  As though I have been selected to channel something of great, great magnitude and consequence.  As though I am a conduit – an oracle.

Q. Don’t you think that sounds a bit grandiose?

A. Of course it does!  But it is true all the same.  I can’t deny it – or if I do, I suffer for having done so.  As I have suffered for the past three and a half months.  And this is why I hesitate to discuss it — with anyone, at all.  It’s so deeply personal, yet at the same time universal.  Nobody will believe me.  People will think I’m nuts, even here in Moscow, as they did in Berkeley and Stockton, and other places where I have attempted to live throughout my highly dysfunctional, disoriented, aimless past.

Q. Can you put that past behind you now, in order to focus on your calling?

A. Yes and no.  I don’t want to put certain elements of it behind me, because they are crucial to the inspiration of the calling.  Had I never lived on the urban streets continuously — for years on end, that is — and had I never been a member of a cohesive community of others who were in the same predicament as myself, I would never have gained these unique perceptions on society that many people either have never shared, or, if they share them, are unable to articulate them with clarity.

Q. You feel that you are able to articulate these unique perceptions with clarity?

A. Yes. This is my calling.  This is what I have been put on this earth to do.

Q. How do you know this?

A. I just do.  It’s evidenced in the chills that come over me, when I am on fire for this cause.  It’s also evidenced in my health.  I marvel that my heart and lungs are in such good condition, my cholesterol is low, I have never had the diseases that many people my age have had and that most people who have lived on the streets have had.  I have never had Hepatitis C or Diabetes 2 or any kind of STD, unlike almost everyone else I knew when we all lived together on the streets.  I’ve been spared all these physical sidetracks – for now – for a reason; and I am convinced that it is because I am to offer these perceptions, through my Art, to the world.

Q. Do you understand how arrogant that sounds?

A. Of course I do!  This is why I continually shirk my calling.

Q. Are you afraid of your calling?

A. Only when I am shirking it.

Q. So what keeps you shirking it?

A. Incredible psychological blocks that sometimes last for months on end.  And this is the second thing that I’d meant to mention.  I not only throw my energy into irrelevant projects, but I balk at the natural roadblocks that arise when I try to go about my relevant projects in an organized fashion.  Take, for example, this piano-vocal score.  It has been almost three and a half months since I have known that it was the next logical step toward the production of my recently completed musical, Eden in Babylon, and yet, only last night did I actually complete a single number in that score. 

Q. But can’t you just forget about the past three and a half months, and build upon the victory of having completed one of your numbers?   And forge ahead to the next number?

A. I can.  But only if I accept a few hard facts.

Q. What facts?

A. First off, the compilation of this piano-vocal score is a chore that I will probably not enjoy too very much.  It will be full of drudgery and the promise of further technical hurdles along the way.

Q. And secondly?

A. Secondly, like any other thankless task, I will need to discipline myself stringently in order to accomplish it.

Q. How so?

A. By allotting three an only three hours a day for it, say between 8:30am and 11:30am, six days a week, and laboriously slaving away over it for an estimated five more months, until it is complete.

Q. Will this be total drudgery?

A. Nothing is total drudgery.  There are always ways to maximize and optimize the enjoyment of a miserable procedure.

Q. Such as?

A. Rejoicing in the success of a disciplined life.  Rejoicing in the benefits of a regular schedule, with fifteen minute breaks every forty-five minutes, as is conducive to the efficiency of the human brain.  But most of all, knowing that once 11:30am has come, I am free to work on other, more enjoyable projects, as long as they are not irrelevant to the cause.

Q. Again, such as?

A. Talks 2017.  I’ve already outlined the four talks.  I can get cracking on them.  My home studio is a perfect venue for their creation.  This will be an enjoyable and fulfilling process, and it will balance out the relative tedium of my having to compile my piano-vocal score.

Q. Anything else?

A. Finishing the sequencing of the music that I composed “in my head” while I was without music notation software — or any other possessions for that matter — in Berkeley.  Even though the themes may not seem to pertain to the calling, they actually do.  I was actually was writing some pretty decent music in Berkeley while all around me the only response I received was a highly resonant “Shut the f–k up, you worthless low life idiot!”  The fact that most people couldn’t even tell I was composing music at all, and that they all assumed I was crazy, is only yet another strong statement of the huge evil that is Classism in modern-day America.  I need to demonstrate to the world that I am a talented, Conservatory-trained composer, so as to bust through the stigma they carry that I, and people like me who have somehow been drawn toward the urban streets, are all worthless, low-life, drug-addicted, over-medicated, mental-health-disordered, unsightly blots upon our society — not to mention “idiots.”

Q. Do I detect a note of vengeance in your calling?

A. In a sense.  But I wish nobody harm.  Proverbs 24:7.  Romans 12:19.  I fight not against flesh and blood, but against a foul spiritual principle.  Ephesians 6:12.

Q. You dare to back up your insanity with Holy Scripture!?

A. Indeed I do.

Q. You presume that this mere musical comedy of yours is indicative of a godly calling?  A spiritual calling??

A. Kind sir, I would hardly refer to years and years of intently focused labor as “presumptuous.”  But again, your retort is exactly why it doesn’t matter how much I am mocked, sneered at, scoffed at, and ridiculed in my quite reasonable expression of my calling.  In a sense, all of that condemnation is immaterial.  The only person I have to truly answer to, in this context, is God.  But in another sense, the fact that they mock, sneer, scoff, scorn, disdain, jeer, and so forth — has everything to do with the calling.  It reveals that I am in no way distinctly different than any other formerly homeless person on the urban streets.  I am no different than anyone else  who had to fly a sign on a sidewalk and endure constant ridicule in order to survive.  The stigma has got to be broken, and people in this country have got to start listening to what homeless people have to say.

Q. Do I detect a tone of inspiration?  Are you getting the “chills” yet?

A. No, I am not.  And I probably won’t – until rare moments.  But because of those moments, and because of my faith, I press on.  I know what I am supposed to be about in this world.   99% of the people I know have no clue.  I am privileged.  I am honored.  I am called.

Q. In light of such grandiosity, how dare you even publish such words?

A. Chock it up to a pep talk.  I let three and a half months go by, basically forgetting I had any purpose in life at all — except to be a decent father to my daughter, to try to be a good friend to my friends, and maybe to sing hymns in the back-most pews on an occasional Sunday. It might be that the three and a half month lull will have been useful, when viewed in retrospect.  When I looked at my script afresh last night, I was astounded.  I saw this whole picture of what I am supposed to be about, and how, as I write the piano-vocal score, I can refine the script, and touch it up, and come up with a second complete draft that exceeds the first in Artistic and dramatic quality.  But I’ll be damned if, when Monday 8:30am rolls around, I only continue to draw a blank.  I’m revving up my engines.  This is it.

Q. So what about the time beforehand?

A. Talks 2017There are four of them: (1) Homeless By Condition: Part One.  (2) Homeless by Choice. (3) Homeless By Condition, Part Two. (4) Homeless No More.  They exceed Talks 2013 in clarity, truth, and power.  And this will be my gift to the world.

Q. Aren’t you still concerned about things like arrogance, mania, grandiosity, excessive goal orientation, flight of ideas, fragmentation, and pressured speech? 

A. Dude!  I am not a psychiatrist!  That the unscrupulous agents of the so-called mental health industry will never cease to regard creative genius as a disease to be treated with pills designed to dull the senses and numb the Spirit is only further proof of my purpose.  No doubt they were among the masses who mocked me and shouted abusive assaults as I merely sat in Ohlone Park playing drums on my pants legs and singing the various instrumental parts of my creations, after all my laptops and software were repeatedly stolen by crack heads and traded within minutes for grams of methamphetamine and cocaine.   Of course I am traumatized!  I don’t even report the most horrid of these assaults, for I have been strongly advised never to speak of them, by almost everyone I know, inside or out of the therapist’s office.   Of course I am dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  But all of that is further fuel for my fire.  Nothing — not even you — can stop me now.

Q. But what about — humility?

A. Humility is only knowing where you stand with God.  Believe me, I’ve got plenty of thorns in my flesh to remind me just how depraved and broken I am.  But I still know the joy of having a clear and distinct purpose on this planet.   Most people don’t know that joy.   It mandates me to do justice to the call.

Q. Don’t you think it is only quite understandable that at this time, I should be extremely concerned about your mental health?   Will you promise to check in with me again tomorrow evening, before you embark upon this path of wanton masochism and self-defeating self-torture?

A. As you wish.  But I will not let you crumple me.  I’ve got Matthew 12:26 and a great speech by Abraham Lincoln on my side.  For can Satan cast out Satan?  A house divided cannot stand.

The Questioner is silent.

lincoln3

 

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