Tuesday Tuneup 85

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Waking up.

Q. Aren’t you an early riser?

A. Historically, yes. These days, not necessarily.

Q. Why not?

A. I’ve been re-enacting a life philosophy that in the year 2015, I referred to as the Social Experiment. Only now, it would be more aptly dubbed the Personal Experiment.

Q. What was the essence of the Social Experiment?

A. May I quote something I wrote about it in 2015?

Q. Why not?

A. Here ya go:

“In the City intended to form a prototype or microcosm of the New City, there is an abundance of resources available to any unscheduled person at any time.  Note how I don’t specify that the person is “unemployed” or, if a student, “unenrolled” — or any other state reflecting the person’s relationship to Time; other than that the individual is “unscheduled.”  There is no form of scheduling — academic, professional, or otherwise — that is to stay a person from exercising the liberty of showing up wherever they want to, at whatever time they wish to. 

“In other words, no human construction of constraints is to be added to the natural constraints on the liberty already effected by Time and Space.  One cannot, geographically, be in two places at once, for example.  “Nor can one get from one place to a much further place in a short period of time.  These are natural constraints — sheer results of the functions of Time and Space.

However, if in addition to these natural constraints there would also be placed constraints made according to an employee’s schedule, or student’s schedule, etc.; then there would be constraints indeed! One finds oneself ensnared in a form of bondage: bondage to the schedules imposed upon them by employers and teachers, for instance. But these are not natural constraints. They are artificial constraints. Without such, one is is relatively free.”

Q. Is that all your wrote?

A. Ha! It’s the tip of the iceberg. I generated all kinds of material concerning the Social Experiment. I referred to as a microcosm of the conditions that will entail in the New City, in the Age to Peace and Enlightenment that is to come — in the world beyond crime – in the world beyond war . . .

Q. Why has this come to mind at this time, five years later?

A. Because of sheltering in place. The parallels between sheltering in place and the place where is no shelter — AKA, homelessness — are starting to unfold.

Q. How so?

A. What was once the Social Experiment, involving the management of time in a reality where time was relatively irrelevant, has now become the Personal Experiment. As I shelter in place, it would seem I have all kinds of time on my hands all of a sudden. Time that ordinarily would be taken up searching for my wallet, my keys, my glasses, and other items. This is the time I would need to spend gathering up my stuff before exiting out the door.

In addition, I would ordinarily have struggled to get to whatever location I needed to get to, at the right time. Now, there is no such struggle. I may have a Zoom meeting at one o’clock on Friday. But how difficult is it for me to get to the computer from, say, the kitchen? Not difficult at all.

On the other hand, I was finding it extremely difficult to have all my things together, and to get to any external location at the right time — without undergoing extreme stress and uncomfortably high levels of anxiety. Now, all that has vanished. I am free of those artificial constraints. Free to explore the Free Flow of the Mind, bound only by functions of Space and Time, and finding myself feeling free — almost completely unbound.

Q. Is this how you felt when you were homeless, as well?

A. Not always. But it was a shining place of awe and wonder, an oasis in the desert that was homelessness. I and others accessed this beautiful place of freedom, as often as we could.

Q. So sheltering in place is not just a contrast to the place where is no shelter — there are also parallels. Am I correct?

A. Correct. The chief difference, in light of those parallels, is that it is no longer a social experiment, but a personal experiment.

Q. Will that always be the case?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Will it always be only a personal experiment, or will it at some point evolve into another social experiment?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. Why not?

A. I don’t know.

The Questioner is silent.

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Sheltering in Place: the Opposite of Living Outdoors

Below the image and link is an almost-verbatim transcript of my most recently published column in Street Spirit. There may or may not be one more column. Then for reasons largely related to the PTSD that I acquired while homeless, I have decided to bow out of this particular gig. Alastair Boone the editor-in-chief has been wonderful to work with, as was Terry Messman, the previous editor who first hired me.

A watercolor image of a house.

Click Here for Original Version

When I first heard the expression “sheltering in place,” an immediate thought came to mind. For a long time, during many years of homelessness, I lived in a place where there is no shelter. Now that sheltering in place is required, I am living a lifestyle that is the direct opposite of my previous manner of life. Once I recognized that polarity, it opened me up to a wealth of useful observations.

For one thing, I noticed that the way I had been living since moving indoors was in many ways not so much different than how I had lived when I was still homeless. Before the pandemic, I still found myself wandering from place to place throughout the day, looking for places to plug in my laptop. I still would spend two or three bucks at coffee shops and fast food joints, as though I had just managed to scrounge up that much money on the streets.

Moreover, even though I had lived indoors for almost four years, I was still feeling halfway uneasy in many of these establishments. In the same way as when I was homeless, I felt as though I wasn’t quite “supposed” to be there. But why? 

As I began to shelter in place, I realized that I had still been using the library, the McDonald’s, and even the hospital in such a way that suggested I had nowhere else to go. In any of these places, I would sit down, plug in my laptop, and hang out for hours on end. After all, I live near a hospital where they have free Starbucks coffee and unlimited refills. Seriously! You can even get a nice home-cooked breakfast for just under three bucks.

Since I did have a place to go—my own apartment—it seemed a bit odd that I wasn’t spending more time there. But after the shelter-in-place order, when I was no longer replicating my homeless life by wandering from spot to spot throughout the day, I found that I appreciated my apartment all the more. 

So I asked myself: “Why should I spend hours walking from one building in town to another? Why should I spend money in cyber cafes, when I have my own dwelling place now, with my own power outlets, and food in the cupboard? My rent money, like that of many, is over half of my monthly check. Why was I wasting the full benefits of my apartment by using it only as a crash pad?” 

It then dawned on me that this, too, had been carried over from my former homeless experience. When I was homeless, did I ever go back to my sleeping spot in the middle of the day and hang out there? Of course not! My sleeping space was tucked away where hopefully no one would find me during the night. It would have been pretty self-defeating to hang out there during the daytime, in broad daylight. 

But now that I had my own indoor place, what was the sense in continuing to avoid my own home during the daytime? There may have been a certain twisted sense in continuing to avoid washing the dishes and taking out the garbage, but other than that, it was sheer laziness that kept me from properly accessing and maintaining my own dwelling place, as well as a waste of rent money. 

As I have begun to spend more time inside my apartment, I have also become better at certain household tasks. I am no longer intimidated by the kitchen. I no longer limit the extent of my cooking potential to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. I don’t fear the condition of the bathroom, and I broke out a vacuum cleaner for the first time in a good fifteen years. 

The things that make a home nice are also being illuminated. Paintings are hanging on the wall now, whereas before they were only leaning against it. All that is changing for the better— and I’m glad.  For where before there was no shelter, and all my deeds were out in the open, now there is only shelter — outside of daily exercise and the occasional errand — and virtually all my deeds are secluded.

With that revelation, finally, there is gratitude. Gratitude for the food stocked up in the cupboard, and for its being the food of my own choice—not food served or granted by those helping me, but food determined by my own agency and wherewithal. Gratitude that the condiments of hygiene may be found in my medicine cabinet; indeed, that I even have a medicine cabinet in which such things may be kept. The grounds for gratitude, for all the simple things in life I longed for in all those years of homelessness, are greatly increased — and illuminated — through the phenomenon of sheltering in place.

Homeless No More is a column that features the stories of people making the transition from homelessness to housing. Andy Pope is a free-lance writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest, and is the author of Eden in Babylon, a musical about youth homelessness in urban America.

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Gratitude List 1563

(1) Even though I haven’t run for almost a week, I’m still losing weight.  Bike rides of up to ten miles, plus brisk walks of two to four miles, are helping.   I’m grateful for the new role of daily outdoor exercise, in providing a healthy change-up from sheltering in place.

(2) The interactive scoring of the third number of my musical is coming along.   Grateful for this new “solo project,” which appears to be ideal for working from home.   

(3)  Last Tuesday we held the first scene rehearsal on Zoom with the new people, Cody and Keva.   I was amazed at how well it went.   We’re also meeting at the church tomorrow to learn the singing, and there’s another scene rehearsal online on Thursday, hopefully with additional people to fill out the missing parts.   Despite the obvious obstacles, a momentum is taking place.   

(4) I really enjoyed the weekly book study on Zoom on Wednesday — we’re going through America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis.   This is an important and timely theme, one that ought not be shirked.   I’m honored to be able to participate in this study, and in the sharing of experiences with others.    

(5) This past Sabbath was in a way the most effective, in that I actually succeeded in resisting the temptation to work, all throughout the twenty-four hours.   As a result, all the work I’ve done since then seems somehow blessed, because I kept that day holy.  Somehow throughout Saturday I felt as though the Universe were expanding, and my own role expanding, as well.  It was as though, as soon as I stopped to listen, I could hear the Universe breathe.    

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”
    — Albert Camus 

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Gratitude List 1556

(1) This morning I ran 4 miles in 57F degrees along Paradise Path.  It was my first decent run in over a week, and it felt really good.   I feel kinda cleansed now, and grateful.      

(2) Enjoyed a second scheduled video chat with my friend Lynne Fisher this morning on WhatsApp.   Thankful for our friendship and for WhatsApp, which makes it seem as though my friend from across the ocean is right there sitting in front of me.   

(3) I keep adding to the arrangement I’ve been working on, and it’s getting closer to being finished.   It will be interesting how it sounds with the singing over it, once we reach that stage.  Thankful for Finale music notation software.  

(4) Rehearsal went well on Tuesday, and it looks as though we’ve another one scheduled for Wednesday.   Thankful that the church has been letting us meet once a week in small groups, observing social distancing.   Even more thankful that most of the progress on the project is being made by individuals sheltering at home.   

(5) I must say once again, I’m thankful for my apartment, that I have all to myself in solitude.  I got up at three in the morning and spent the quiet hours reading and writing as I pleased.   Then, when I came home from running, I downed a Gatorade and plopped down on the sofa exhausted.   Now I’m smelling the coffee.   Sheltering in place is a lot nicer than living in a place where there isn’t any shelter.   Believe me — I’ve done both.   

“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
   — Abraham Lincoln 

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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 1546

1. My voice is coming back now after a treacherous bout of laryngitis.  I’m especially thankful for this, especially as I have to sing a solo on our interactive presentation of my song “Ode to the Universe” from my musical Eden in Babylon. 
 
2.  The thunderstorm two days ago was a deterrent to exercise, but a brisk five mile walk yesterday beat most of the heavy wind and rain.   Great five miles to Staples & back to get a mouse, stopping only at the café for doppio.  Winds are only 5mph in light rain and I’m about to go on a run in the sunset.   Thankful–and somewhat amazed–that I can still do it.
 
3. Grateful to have finally landed on a definite plan on the presentation.  All I gotta do is stay on the even keel, and it will show consistency to the Kids — and they’ll come through.   Bowen is confidently turning in a great part, Maria emailed me to get together to practice in real-time, and I just heard from Richard, who want to jam at my house later in the week.   It’s not as though the Kids are not into it.  I just somehow have to rise to the occasion in ways that have challenged my comfort zone.   I’m getting the hang of it now, though — I can tell.
 
4. There are a number of similar things that I’ve been doing differently since sheltering in place.  Allow me to enumerate:
 
(1) I’m reading a lot more, especially news articles and scientific or psychological articles.   Up to  15 or 20 per day, I who didn’t think he could read.
 
(2) I’m listening to the music of others, having finally tuned into Spotify for a free three-month Premium account.  It’s great to have music in the background, something that usually wouldn’t have crossed my mind.  (I’m planning to do the same thing with movies, like with Netflix maybe.  It never crosses my mind to watch movies either, but it would enhance the quality of life.)
 
(3) Purged and cleaned the Lenovo desktop, and now the desktop is organized for optimal use.
 
(4) There’s a variety of different kinds of foods in the cupboard and fridge.   This is similar to the variety of different kinds of music I’ve been listening to..
 
(5) I’ve been cleaning up my website, making everything simpler and easier to access, and less confusing.
 
(6) Rather than keep hiding the ASUS laptop with the broken screen, keyboard and touch pad in the dresser drawer, I now have it all set up in the bedroom with external keyboard, monitor, and new external mouse!   I even got a wireless mouse since I will never remove the ASUS from the house and can always keep the plug in the port.   So now I have two computers at home, one that I can carry with me outside, and one that stays.
 
(7) In order to make room for the ASUS, I finally removed the big bookshelf that was such an eyesore in the bedroom, and all its shelves.   It was right in front of a power outlet anyway, and that’s the logical place for the other computer.   I’ve got two other dressers and another set of shelves anyway.   Bedroom looks great now!  I even made the bed.  
(Anyone who knows me knows that ordinarily I would have never done any of those things, but would have continued to reduce the quality of my dwelling space to that of a largely unattended “crash pad.”  Sheltering in place has brought out the better part of me.)
 
5.  There’s is a light rain outside my window, I got my work cut out for me, I don’t have any interfering appetites, and I’m eager to run in the rain.   After that, I’ll come back into my house and feel grateful to be inside, and out of the rain.  Come to think of it, I can’t lose.
 
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
      —  Albert Einstein

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Gratitude List 1532

(1) I am thankful that my daughter is in my life today.   It makes me feel good to know that, whatever might have gone wrong, I’m not the type of dad that I keep hearing some of these Kids tell me about.   I’ve made mistakes — but at least I care.  Some of those so-called fathers did not even care — and worse.

(2) Thankful for this desk.  For my Lenovo IdeaPad, which safely returned from a warranty fix-up.    Thankful for Audacity free audio editing software, because I got into the multi-tracking and the mixing last night or the first time, and it was all I could do to stop mixing Zazen’s song, I was so thrilled.  This opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities.  I can actually even place musical underscores at key moments in my oral presentations.  It’s amazing what technology can do, if properly utilized.

(3) Grateful for the revelation that when I lost my cool recently, I was basically mad at all the other people on the team because I wasn’t doing my job.   True, they weren’t doing their jobs either, but it’s my job to make sure they do their jobs, and they’re definitely not going to be about doing it without pay and without pressure of definite deadline if I don’t kinda gently get on them about it, now and again.   So, I’m glad I saw the light.  I got my work cut out for me now.

(4) Just ran six miles — my longest run since I’ve been in North Idaho, I’m ashamed to say — and it feels great.  Looking forward to getting a lot of work done tonight.

(5) Looking forward to meeting my new student on Zoom for the third time tomorrow, and to having coffee thereafter with my buddy Tom, the fellow who helps with the four-hand job of putting the smartphone on the tripod.  But other than that once-or-twice-daily step-out, I mostly continue to be grateful to be sheltering in place.  It’s teaching me to be grateful for the place I have for shelter.   For a long time, there was no such place.   Things really could be — and have been — a lot worse than they are today.

“I believe I am better than the people who are trying to reform me.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Tuesday Tuneup 75

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Elation.

Q. Elation?  Are you out of your mind??

A. Not that I know of, no.   Why would I be?

Q. Well, what on earth is there to be elated about?   Don’t you know what’s going on in the world?

A. I do.   

Q. Then why are you elated?

A. Elation is an ephemeral state.  It won’t last, you know.   I just happen to be elated right now.   

Q. What about?

A. Something really great happened, and it got me feeling good.

Q. What happened?

A. I figured out how to pay the phone bill in time to keep the service on before they disconnected it.

Q. You figured it out?

A. Yes.

Q. What is so hard about paying a phone bill?

A. Well, I don’t know.  Have you tried lately?

Q. What do you mean?

A. You got to get the money off of one card to the other card, switch accounts, deal with voicemail loops, get it to revolve on the day when you have the money, deal with them lying to you, trying to get the money out of you earlier, shortening the days in the business cycle, hoping you won’t notice, not to mention —

Q. STOP!!   Are you having a manic episode?

A. Not at all, sir.  I’m merely elated.

Q. Just because you were able to pay a phone bill?

A. Well, you should have seen me last month and the month before.  It isn’t easy these days for me, given all that goes on between my ears, to pay a phone bill.   Both of the previous months they turned off the service until I could manage to get to the office and have the guy there take my card and go through the motions for me.

Q. So you paid the phone bill, and proceeded to feel elated?

Q. Overjoyed, man.  Happy, chipper, and high.   

Q. High?

A. Figuratively speaking.

Q. What about literally?

A. Literally, no.  In fact, I resisted that one.

Q. How so?

A. Well, when I became elated, I wanted to celebrate.  I felt myself cycling over toward the marijuana dispensary three miles down the road.  

Q. Marijuana?

A. Yeah.  This stuff:

Marijuana high: Strains, smoking, vaping, and edibles

Q. Why would you want to smoke marijuana?

A. Psychological association.   There was a time when I would reward myself with a celebratory bowl, every time I accomplished something noteworthy.

Q. Such as pay a phone bill?

A. You got it.

Q. But this time you resisted?

A. Yeah – I felt myself headed in that direction.  So I took a different turn.

Q. What turn was that?

A. I located a local homeless boy and gave him five bucks.

Q. How did that keep you from smoking?

A. Oh it made it easy!  It was the last five bucks I had left after paying the phone bill.

Q. You’re that broke?

A. Again, an ephemeral state.  I won’t be broke at all come Friday.  End of the month, you know.   Poverty Culture.   We kinda live month to month, fend, try to enjoy life, the best things thereof being free, and all that.

Q. Isn’t it a bit crass to be broadcasting your personal financial situation?

A. Not where I come from.   I’ve been in some societies where it’s crass to bring up money at all.

Q. And in your society?

A. You mean Poverty Culture?   We talk about money all the time!   We talk about small amounts.   We loan each other fifty cents and back.   How can we even co-exist without talking about money?   There’s only so much to go around.

Q. What are you driving at?

A. Nothing really.  Just shootin’ the breeze.

Q. What about COVID-19?

A. Sheltering in place.  

Q. Wouldn’t that be the perfect place to smoke your weed?   Where nobody is watching?

A. It’s been done.  But believe me, I like myself better without it.

Q. But aren’t you way more hyper than you used to be?

A. Is that a problem?

Q. I don’t know.  Is it?

A. Not for me.  Not home alone.  Not here all by myself.   Who’s to complain about my level of energy?   Who’s to call me manic?   Who’s to call me on anything?   I’ll be as manic as I want!   Any of you psych agents wanna try to medicate my precious mania out of my system, you go right ahead.  I’m an Artist!! I will generate a manic episode if I think it’s going to help my work!    But WOAH!!! WOAH!!!!!

Q. Did you just feel an earthquake?

A. Yes I did.   

Q. Aren’t earthquakes pretty rare in this part of the world?

A. Maybe.  I don’t know.  Gotta check Facebook.

Q. Facebook?   Why not check USGS?

A. Good idea.   Somehow I assumed Facebook would be the more authoritative source.  Hang on a minute . . . no, nothing at USGS yet.   Oh – here it is!   6.3!  Wow!  

Q. Did you actually just have an earthquake right while you were writing this post?  

A. Sure did.   Check the link.   

Q. Still elated?

A. Naw.  I think I blogged it out of my system.   It’s a good thing, too.   Elation can be very deceiving.   There’s a cooler, steadier energy at work here, slowly creating finer facts and fiction — but it works behind the scenes.   

The Questioner is silent.

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