Gratitude List 1007

This one was from Saturday morning.  It looked interesting & unusual enough to be worth posting.  So I posted it.  

1. Slept about 5 hours, a little after 10 till around 3. Slept deeply.

2. At some point yesterday, I became really tired, in a good way. Tired of always feeling like I have to prove myself. It felt good not to need to prove anything to anyone.  It made me feel as though I was already all right.  

3. Apologized to a couple people I’d gotten upset with.  I don’t know that they were necessarily “in the wrong” but it still seemed right to apologize for my overreaction.

4. Felt better after I apologized, and like I could move forward now.

5. There’s a kind of hatred in me when I’m trying to prove myself to people, especially to people I knew from California, or to sheltered people of privilege, or both. Tired of hating on them, tired of returning stigma for stigma.  Tired of the whole thing. It felt so good to let go, when I did let go, and I knew I’d let go.

6. I didn’t have to prove myself anymore to this one guy I ran into the other night, somebody who intimidates me, because he has every positive quality that I lack.  So what?  He’s got his, and I’ve got mine.   The same God created us both.

7. Did all right at the Open Mike and may have made a new friend in this one lady Hanna — or at least a fan. Sang “The Word from Beyond” and it kinda seemed dumb that I’d ever felt I needed to change those lyrics, as though to prove myself, or prove that I’m not New Agey, or whatever it is that makes me weirder than most Christians.  It’s just a damn song in a show, that is to say, a show tune.  And I wrote it.  It speaks for itself.  Tired of proving myself.

8. Woke up and I was different. Tired of sending all these emails to everyone. I want to read, I want to run. Tired of talking all the time, I just want to listen.

9. It felt good to just notate the score last night and make progress and not have to prove that my work is good. My work just is good, it felt good just to do the work and not worry about what anybody thinks of it. If they didn’t think my music was good, they wouldn’t be trying to help me produce my musical.  It felt good just to relax about it all for once.

10. Met an interesting spiritual guy who knows Norman from Campus Christian Center, a Zen kinda dude named Seth. He gave me a ride home from the Open Mike. We probably disagree about prayer, but I didn’t feel like I had to win an argument or anything. Tired of proving myself.

Tired of having to prove myself to money-worshipping money-guzzlers.  Tired of feeling like I should have anything to prove to people of privilege who go around lecturing us poor people on how to live — as if they have any idea what it’s like to be poor, and as if I had any inkling I’d ever want to be rich and become like they are.

Tired of getting pissed off at privileged people’s put-downs and all their hypocritical kick-downs.  I’ll stay poor, I’ll stay starved, I’ll stay complaining to them all.  And the day when they realize I’m not complaining about my lot in life, but only complaining about them — will be one Great Day on the Planet.  Some of these kooks kick down a couple of bucks and expect you to kiss their butts for the rest of your days.  They kick down five, and you’re supposed to change your entire hard-earned value system.  Ten bucks and there goes your political philosophy. 

I’m just tired, I’m done. It feels good. I don’t care about money-lovers, the seeds they plant are rooted in evil.  They’ll get theirs. 

And I’ve got mine!!  I just want to die to self and live to Christ. From now on. Tired and done.

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The Homeless Christmas Day

This piece was originally posted on my Facebook timeline on December 23rd, 2015.  It has been edited for coherence, and for the relative removal of bitterness and rancor, being as the overall conditions of homelessness were, at the time, affecting both my brain and my heart.  “The Homeless Christmas Day” has been published in the December issue of Street Spirit.  

It looks as though we’re closing in on Christmas again, folks. That’s bad news in my book, and (I daresay) in the corporal book of homeless people everywhere. The good news is that I haven’t flipped out yet. Last year at this time I thought I would “err on the side of caution” and do everybody the favor of at least deactivating my Facebook for the holidays, so that people wouldn’t have to endure too many posts like this on my timeline. Meanwhile, I would be free of that awful combination of outrage and jealousy that so often overtook me when I had to see all the “likes” on all the cute family pictures, often with lavish gifts being opened beneath their highly decorated Christmas trees.

Last year my departure was quick and easy: “It’s that time, folks! See ya after the Super Bowl!” Probably the shortest Facebook timeline post of mine in history. Somehow it didn’t go over too well.

The year before that, I was spending Christmas Day stuck out in the rain, with services closed for those of my ilk, not to mention the usual five-in-the-morning “indoor resources” being closed (Starbucks, McDonald’s, etc.) After all, social workers need to celebrate Christmas too, and baristas need a day off as well. Of course, government buildings were closed, and it wasn’t possible to hide out in the library all day.  So I wandered around aimlessly in the rain, eventually realizing that the only other people doing so were about twenty-five other angry homeless people. Our natural exchanges of commisseration began to depress me.

homeless christmas“Well, I do have a laptop, and friends on the Internet,” I mused, as I crouched underneath the awning of the Starbucks at Oxford & University, copped their Wi-Fi connection, and began to plead my case to a number of old friends who no doubt saw the intrusion upon their warm family gatherings as a bit rude.

Describing my situation, I implored a number of people for a PayPal grant of $60 or so, hoping to be able to get out of the rain and set up shop in a cozy motel room somewhere. I figured, “Geeze, it’s Christmas! You’d think somebody wouldn’t mind giving the poor homeless bloke a well-deserved Christmas present.”

Of course, it was short notice. Quite to my hurt, I mistakenly banked on the combined compassion of the chosen few. But alas, the constant bombardment of pictures of old friends on Facebook basking in decadent bursts of Christmas Day galore – stockings, ornaments, grandchildren, the whole works — did nothing for me other than to arouse the ol’ Green Eyed Monster who forever grumbles dormant within me — perched, poised, and ready to pounce.

Well — pounce the Monster did indeed! The results were none too pretty. One of my friends was so aghast at my approach (which no doubt must have been rather ghastly), that his response was quite a shock. Rather than consider helping me out in any way, he sent a joint email to me and the closest member of my family he could think of. In the email, he recommended that I be “institutionalized” — evidently as a viable solution to this chronic homelessness business that obviously wasn’t being dealt with effectively.

psych ward stockingUnbeknownst to him, that was my biggest fear. Not that I have any particular dread of the techno-torture of this Age. It’s just that they don’t let me plug in my laptop in those types of dives, because it can “conceivably be used as a weapon.” They do the same thing with my shoelaces, which makes jogging around the building a bit difficult. And of course they don’t let you out of the building so you can go on a run of decent length, if you happen to be (as I am) one of those. I remember once when I even alluded to the fact that I was training for a half-marathon, they wanted to put me on bipolar meds because I was exhibiting what they called “excessive goal orientation.”

In short, the instutitions, both short-term and long, are rather dreary places to be. Arguably, Christmas outside in the rain would be preferable.

As I read my friend’s well-meaning recommendations, all I could do was shake my head. “What we have here is a failure to communicate,” I mumbled, mulling over the text in amazement. Knowing I could never get my point across to my old friend through Internet typing alone, I implored him that I reply with an oral presentation to consist of approximately thirty minutes of persuasive speech.

It worked! Not only did I succeed in explaining the Facts of Homeless Life to the guy — but he actually poured accolades upon the technical and aesthetic details of my Spoken Word piece. Naturally, my attitude of disdain toward him was replaced with great approval. This fellow actually had an MFA in Voice and Speech, and here he was telling me that I was a good speaker? The same person whose opinion I had poo-pooed now expressed an opinion I found quite delightful. You see, I had enormous professional respect for this person, and I took his praise to heart. It was as though I had discovered a new hidden talent, hidden among all the other hidden ones — not that I’m about hiding any of my alleged strengths, but only that the society at large, in continuing to view me as a scum bag, essentially doesn’t see what I’ve got to offer even as I offer it. They see what they want to see.  It doesn’t matter how brightly the homeless person’s light may shine. Between that shining light and the eyes of the beholder there is a dark cloak that obscures the accuracy of their view.

And the name of the cloak is Stigma.

Ah, Stigma. Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? What are we to do with You? Should I make the same move as I made in 2014, in order to avoid yet another Facebook Christmas? It’s tempting, but something gives me pause. It’s already the 23rd, and like I said, I haven’t flipped out yet. So let’s push this puppy to the limits. Take ‘er to the max. Shoot for the moon! Let’s keep my Facebook active, and push the envelope just a wee bit further. Let’s all see for ourselves just what exactly happens on Christmas Day.

Come on, Christian America! What do ya think Christmas is all about? Why are we washing our hands like Pontius Pilate of the validity, the legitimacy, the dignity, and the humanity of an estimated 8% of our nation’s urban population? Even among those who are not homeless, statistics still reveal that one sixth of America struggles for hunger on a daily basis! Do you think Christmas will be any less of that struggle!?

Come on, people! Let us in! Stop looking at us as though we’re all a bunch of worthless druggies and boozers and losers and vandals and varmints and thieves! We take showers, we wash our clothing — it just takes us longer to do so because we have to wait in big lines at service centers to get into the shower, to access the washer, to get the toothpaste and toothbrush and razors and shampoo — while what do you do? You can do these things in a moment’s time, and you look at us patiently waiting at places like then Multi-Agency Service Center in Berkeley, California, and you frown and shake your heads and say: “Look at those lazy bums, sitting there doing nothing!”

Le us in for once! It’s Christmas, for Christ’s sake!! Let me show you I still know how to play the piano and crack my jokes and get you to holler and laugh and do requests! You think any of my gifts have changed just because I happen to sleep outdoors and you happen to sleep inside? I can give you the same Christmas gifts you used to enjoy so much back when you were glad to have me over for a dinner on the holidays! And those are only my gifts. We all have our gifts to give you! Isn’t Christmas about giving? Then let us give you our gifts — on Christmas Day. Let us in.

Tears of love will fall from my eyes when I am finally able to tell you that I love you in a manner that no email nor Skype call nor timeline post could ever touch. And great will be your reward in heaven. For the King whose birthday you claim to commemorate will reply: “Whatsoever you did for the least of my brethren, you did also for Me.” 

Andy Pope
Berkeley California
December 23, 2015

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Tuesday Tuneup 24

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater certainty.

Q. Why do you need greater certainty?

A. Because uncertainty makes me uneasy.

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

A. It is, yes.

Q. Then how can you expect greater certainty?

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

Q. From where, then?

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

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

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

Q. Why not?

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

Q. Why wouldn’t it?

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

Q. But isn’t that beautiful?

A. It can be.

Q. Can’t you just roll with it?

A. I try to.

Q. And when you fail?

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

Q. Fickle?

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

Q. How so?

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

Q. Why?

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

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

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

Q. When did you stop being inspired?

A. About ten days ago.

Q. What happened then?

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

Q. Near-death experience?

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

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

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

Q. How did this loss of self come about?

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

Q. Are you okay now?

A. Physically, yes.

Q. And mentally?

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

Q. How so?

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

Q. Why is this?

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

Q. Of speaking your truth?

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

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

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

Q. And now?

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

Q. Why?

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

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

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

Q. Why do I not believe you?

A. I have no idea.

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

A. I suppose it could be.

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

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

Q. Oh my – how could I forget?

A. How could I forget?

Q. I don’t know — how could you?

A. Beats me.   Guess I’m getting old.

Q. May I be excused, sir?

A. (with a sigh) You may.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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700 Days of Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Are You Homeless?

I walked into the Courtyard Cafe this morning wearing my running shoes with spikes on.  We need to wear spikes around here to walk comfortably in the treacherous snow.  My ordinary shoes were slung across my shoulder as usual.

I asked a worker here if the spikes were creating dimples in the hardwood floor.  He said they probably were.   I mentioned that I hadn’t been in Idaho for very long, and I was still getting used to all this stuff.

Suddenly, a lady sitting across the way asked me: “Are you homeless?”

“No, I’m not,” I replied.  “But I’m curious.  That’s an odd question.   People don’t generally ask me if I’m ‘homeless.’   What prompted you to ask that?   Is it the way I look?   The beanie?  The beard?”

Ando Smiling“No,” she said, possibly lying. 

See that guy to the right?   That’s how I look.  This is my most recent look, after having lived for just about a year and a half now, here in Idaho, after escaping twelve years of on-and-off-again homelessness (mostly “on”) in a State I hope I never have to set foot in again, quite frankly.

“You’re dressed like every other guy in this town,” she continued, possibly telling the truth.   

(I did notice upon moving to this particular city that just about every man in my age group wore a beanie or cap, had a beard, and usually carried a backpack.  It made it easy on me.  Nobody assumed I was “homeless.”)

“You said you were new in Idaho, so I thought you might have been homeless.  I’m sorry if I offended you.”

“No, you didn’t offend me at all,” I clarified.  “Nothing wrong with being homeless.  I just wondered what it was about me that got you to think so.”

She drew a breath.  “A lot of people who are new to Idaho were homeless in another State.  It’s because here, people are just people.  They don’t judge you for being homeless in a place like this.   They don’t think of you as a scum bag or a loser.  They just figure you’re down on your luck – and they try to help you out.”

“Are you homeless?”  I asked.

“No,” she replied, looking a bit puzzled.  

She then walked to the counter and came back with a breakfast for me in a to-go box.

“Merry Christmas,” she smiled — and walked out.  

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The Dialectic (Part Four)

This is it, guys.  It’s the final post in the four-part series known as “The Dialectic.”  It is what it is.  I’m moving on now.   I’ve done my part, as best I can.  The rest is up to God.  

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. At this point, you’ve basically been reduced to a literary device that makes it easier to get my point across.

Q. From superego to literary device in one blog alone?  I’m crushed.

A. Join the club.  I’ve been crushed for thirteen years.

Q. So what’s your point?

A. My point is that $50,000 is not a whole lot of money to somebody.   Maybe not you, and certainly not me — but somebody.  Maybe not one person.  Maybe a group of people.  Maybe someone wants to invest?  Fine.  We’ll start talking about a return.   Maybe someone’s a patron of the Arts, and would simply like to be a donor.  Or maybe somebody just likes me — believes in me — and would like to see me succeed.  One way or the other, the $50,000 is obtainable, as long as we draw the right people to the cause.

Q. And what is the cause?

A. The cause is to produce the musical Eden in Babylon, which deals with the effects of homelessness on the youth of today.  I have placed within this piece a persistent suggestion that the solution to homelessness lies in better communication between those who are sheltered and those who are not — between those who have not yet seen the streets, and those who are forced to live there.   I know it’s sounds like I’m dreaming, so let me ask you this: why not?  What do we have to lose?   It just might be that if we embrace our common humanity, whether we be rich or poor, sheltered or homeless, we will bridge the Class Gap while it still glares, before it tears us apart.

Q. Why Musical Theatre?  Why did you choose that genre?

A. Largely, because that’s where my proficiency lies.  But also, the classic view of the traditional musical is that it is intended to present life, not as it is, but as it ought to be.  Man of La Mancha.  Carousel.  Camelot.  See a show like that — a show like mine – and you don’t leave for home in despair.

Q. Well then surely there must be patrons of the Arts somewhere who will resonate with such a cause.  But who will be these people be?

A. Well, they certainly won’t be poor people.

Q. But isn’t Eden in Babylon an exposé on classism?

A. It is.  So what?

Q. Well, don’t you think that the people who might have the kind of money to back you are the very people whom you have often antagonized?

A. They are.  But fences can be mended.  In fact – they must be mended.  It’s what the play is all about.

Q. But won’t you run the risk of antagonizing them again?  Or antagonizing people like them?   The kinds of people who tend to piss you off?

A. There are always risks involved in an enterprise of this scope.  Take no risks, and you get nowhere.  Besides, they no longer piss me off.

Q. They don’t?

A. Not often.  Not for the reasons that earlier got my goat.  You see, I am not in the state of demoralization in which I often found myself when I was destitute and frustrated, earlier in life.  In those days, I actually lived in all the indignity and insanity displayed in this show.  Today, on the other hand, all of my personal needs are met.  I’m in a decent living situation, in a secluded setting, with solitude — the kind of environment a Writer dreams of attaining.   I enjoy a fixed income, payable rent, eatable food, and lots of nice running trails, where I work out, and work things out, and sometimes let off steam.  I’m in a good place in life today, on a day that — though beautiful — cannot promise to last forever.   Best to strike while the iron’s still hot.   

Q. But what about the way that the wealthy are portrayed in the story itself?  Are they not the antagonists?

A. Wherever did you get that idea?  None of the three main antagonists are wealthy.  Two of them are only what you might call “mainstream” – those who are hired to serve the needs of the wealthy, to promote their interests.  I used to do that myself back in the 90’s with in a studio apartment with a Toyota Corolla, driving from one large home to another, giving piano lessons to children, cracking jokes with the parents, and sitting behind a baby grand piano at night in a three piece suit at a five star restaurant.  Did that mean I was wealthy?  Heavens, no!  I made about $33,000 a year before taxes.  There’s a big difference between having money to hire, and being hired by those who have it.

Q. What about the third antagonist?  The really, really bad guy whose name is Johnny James?

A. You’ve got his number already, buddy boy.  J.J.’s a homeless drug dealer — my own antagonist, as it were, on the streets.

Q. So the wealthy side with the protagonist?  With Winston Greene?

A. They appear to oppose him, but at the same time, they love him.  They are only misguided as to how best he might be loved.  For they are those of his birth family, and his original community.  They have sheltered him his whole life long, in an effort to shield him from that which they fear.  Naturally he rebels, and in so doing, learns that what they thought was so fearful, need not be feared at all.

Q. And he succeeds in getting this revelation across to them?

A. In the end, he does.  And then, those whom they feared, they at last embrace.  Those from whom they hid their eyes, they now see with eyes opened wide with clear vision.  So they let them in, to share in their privilege, and never be homeless again.

Q. So there is a happy ending!

A. Of course.  Why would there not be?

Q. But don’t they sing an elegy to Winston Greene?  At a jailhouse memorial, in Act Two, Scene Two?

A. Let’s just say, as Mark Twain once put it, that the reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated.

Q. And what about that horribly demonic, death metal Opening, the song Intervention, which depicts psychiatric intervention followed by techno-torture, in the song The Age of Nevermore, in the terrifying second scene?

A. It has been adjusted accordingly.  In the Opening, it still depicts psychiatric intervention.  As the Finale, it now shows divine intervention.  

Q. A pleasant twist! How did you arrive at it?

A. In a flash, as though given by an Artist Greater Than Myself.

Q. An Artist Greater Than Yourself?

A. Yes.  For I have made a decision to turn my will and my life over to an Artist Greater Than Myself.  

Q. And this Greater Artist is — on your side?

A. God’s not on my side.  He’s on our side.   Together, we’re going to win.

Q. Andy, let me ask you one more question.

A. Be my guest.

Q. What will it take, besides money, to get this show off the ground?

A. Divine Intervention – and Love.

can-do

LET’S PUT AN END TO CLASSISM.
LET’S PUT AN END TO HOMELESSNESS.
LET’S ALL SPEAK THE TRUTH
IN LOVE

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

The Mark of Cain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Andy Pope
Moscow, Idaho
17 June 17

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Anything Helps – God Bless!