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The Arts, A Bright Spot, Even for the Homeless
Marcello Gomes - Superb Ballet Dancer
Andy Warhol Museum- Pittsburgh
The Arts /Ballet = medicine when life is rough and tough.
First, I need to thank Starbucks on Market Square in Pittsburgh for being open on New Years Day. As I joked with the staff, I was sad for them but happy for me. A great crew indeed.
Sitting in Armani jeans, a Colours sweater by Alexander Julian, sitting by a fireplace, hair pulled back in a trendy, artsy ponytail, I can pull off the façade of being/looking "normal". Normal in this instance is not looking homeless.
Having to have been back at the shelter by 7:30 PM New Years Eve, I did not get to welcome in 2015. Pittsburgh has a wonderful celebration downtown from 6:00 PM and on. I was sad that I was not able to enjoy it as the arts are incorporated quite heavily but next year I will... or I will be in Boston having moved their to practice pharmacy.... or I will be dead as I cannot and will not want to live like this too much longer.
My night, last night was listening to the "symphony" of men snoring, passing gas, belching and the sneaking of alcohol from bottles in noisy paper bags.
I should mention that when I started my 'walk of the dead' this morning, it was only 20 degrees and windy. I also felt discouraged because I could not do my usual 10 mile run on New Years morning as I have done almost every New Years day so many times before as the 'structure' of my homeless shelter does not allow it.... Oh well... next year.
After walking in the cold for 1 & 1/2 hours, I am now appropriately thawed out and can write about one of my favorite topics = THE ARTS! - especially ballet and how it brightens my life, especially now as a homeless person. Writing about the arts makes me shiver in excitement, not from the cold!.
Since I go into great detail in my burgeoning book about the time at the age of three my passion for ballet blossomed in a huge eruption, I will leave those details to a reader of my future published book. Having a high IQ and being a voracious reader, I read many books and articles on ballet and the arts in general, starting at a very early age. When things at home got stressful or dark at home, I could open a book about the history of ballet, or the Renaissance, or architecture, etc. and suddenly life seemed a lot better and tolerable. If Michelangelo could deal with the haranguing of the pope "to finish that damned ceiling", I could survive and deal with the latest negativity at home or life in general.
When I was released from Allegheny County Jail, one of my goals was to get the money together to reactivate my season tickets to the wonderful latest season of the Pittsburgh Ballet. However, things such as clothes (As Chase Bank, Fannie Mae and the evil property manager had thrown mine away - or sold it), hygiene items, shoes, etc. had to take precedence. I suppose I could have bought ballet slippers, tights and a dance belt and flew around the shelter but I doubt it would have been appreciated by the 'enlightened' men at the living and working there. Hopefully I will find employment while I am still in Pittsburgh, rebuild my life and then I will be able to buy tickets for the remaining season.
My computer was able to be saved from my house, and thank you Lord Jesus, I can turn it on at times and watch some of the ballets I had downloaded, particularly my favorite ballets featuring among others some of my favorites: Roberto Bolle, Nureyev and Baryshnikov.
When I was working on my second degree in pharmacy, I took an elective course in the Art Department. I had picked a painting by Seurat, hanging at the Carnegie Museum to write a term paper on. The teachers inspiring review and enthusiasm over my paper has always been a sharp and wonderful memory. I decided to go to the museum and revisit the painting. I stood and walked around the painting much as I had done years earlier. It was like I had traveled back in time and could relive the hope and positive life that I had back then. It felt good... very good. I always felt like the man in the painting sitting alone on a bench, surrounded and protected by all the trees around him. It felt good to feel protected again. If ever I needed the feeling of protection and safety as that painting projected and projects to me as it did then ... is now.
Of course I perused as much of the galleries as I could but when I visit a museum or gallery, I prefer to study and enjoy it at a leisurely pace as opposed to a glutton at an 'all you can eat' buffet. A leisurely pace is 'so not me'. I think I was addicted to multi-tasking in grade school so I enjoy those times I can downshift my energy level and absorb more leisurely. No....., I am not afflicted with ADHD but I feel life is so short and there is so much to do and experience, present circumstances excluded. As the day progressed, I was reminded of my families two church icons, 800-1000 years old and other valuable art work that the banks property manager, James Watson stole and sold from my ex-house, become sad and left. Yes, I am bitter and will continue to express it.
I have always felt that the arts are what bring color to life, the spice that flavors life. This must not only be true for people in my spectrum of life but all peoples of every spectrum. Jackie Kennedy had it correct when she incorporated the arts, of all kinds, into the White House and by way of osmosis, into society in general. What is it we remember most of societies from eons past? In my humble opinion, it is their artistic endeavors. By art, I not only mean dance but also music, paintings, architecture, literature, and many, many etc. I often think of those cave paintings found in France well over 50,000 years old. We would have no knowledge or remembrance of that society if we had not found those cave paintings. As of my last reading on these paintings, not a great deal is known about these cave painters but from the paintings, we can extrapolate a lot of knowledge and all of this from how they expressed themselves through their artistic accomplishments.
Back to dance.... when no one is looking, I still like to do my warm-up routine I used to love and enjoy when I took ballet. Aside from the physical importance of doing any exercise, the infusion of my passion and love for ballet, revisited and re-experienced, suddenly makes life, as it is now (temporarily!), more tolerable and not so cloudy.
I ask the reader to imagine how drab life would be without all the facets that the arts provides to us and society in general. For me, everything would be black and white= colorless. I think the usage of hallucinogenics such as LSD would grow exponentially if we did not have the arts to brighten our horizons and surroundings!
The importance of the arts in therapy has been utilized for a long time. Anyone from any society can watch "The Nutcracker' (keeping with the season), listen to Beethoven's Fifth or look at a child's painting and feel better and find common ground without voicing a word or need to speak a word. Emotions, good and bad, as experienced are the same. Look at my face listening to some extremely loud head banging musical endeavor and no words will need to be expressed to know what I am "saying" or feeling.
I'm reminded of the time I was a volunteer in a pediatric section of a hospital in Zanesville, Ohio when I was working on my first degree at Muskingum College. There was a young boy who was admitted for chemo but was adamant that it was not going to happen. It was going to happen but they were trying to do it with his reservations and fears relieved. He just would not talk about it. I watched him as an observer when the staff was trying to get him to open up and talk. I felt there had to be a way. I also felt it would have to an indirect way. I had noticed all his Star Trek comic books and all the artwork he had created. HHHHMMMMM..... When time allowed, I returned to his room and simply said I was going to spend a little time with him in case he needed anything. He shrugged his shoulders, barely acknowledged me and continued coloring a picture. I had brought in some paper and colored pencils and commenced to draw- attempt to draw- "The Enterprise". I had only very recently became familiar with Star Trek as reruns of it were an event in the dorm. Of course, I had noticed I was slowly getting his attention, ever so slowly and ever so slyly. I did not try to hook him verbally as he was smart and suspicious. I waited for him to address me. I made an obvious, huge and glaring addition to the Enterprise. Finally, he could not take it anymore and yelled out, "No, not like that. Let me show you." I acted peaved and said, "Please do. I never had anyone show me how to draw well." "Oh, OK." he gruffed but I saw the beginnings of a smile. After a while, we began to talk about things other than "Star Trek". I knew perfectly well why he was there but I asked him why he was there. A torrent of words - and tears - followed. I did nothing to stop him but just held his hand and I will never forget how hard he grasped mine. I just listened and wanted him to know I cared.. boy did I care. Then we talked about his needed treatment - chemo. I gently told him it was necessary. I explained to him that when it was finished, he would be better. I also explained there would be days when he would feel very sick but sometimes we have to feel real bad in order to get better. I then told him that when he was well again, he would be an example to others about the importance of getting treatment. He brightened up and asked, "You mean like a doctor?" I smiled and said, "No, a lot more important than a doctor." He liked that! Then with his permission, he allowed me to bring in his medical team to talk to him. Mission accomplished. All of this because of paper, paint and colored pencils = ART! (Not to mention Star Trek) - Love and compassion have to be given their due credit also.
Recently- 6 months after originally writing this article- I was waiting for a bus at the "Theatre Square" in Pittsburgh. A small group of artists were playing instruments such as violins, piano, flute, etc. The only people taking advantage of this beautiful little symphony were homeless people. I wish I could describe the look of happiness, joy and peace on their faces. Everyone else was running around and not even acknowledging these wonderful artists. I remember thinking that the homeless people had a better insight into certain aspects of society and had a lesson to teach society in general. I decided to take a short respite and take time to 'smell the roses' and listen to the beautiful music and I felt better having done so.
Benedum Center for the Performing Arts- Pittsburgh
Market Square Pittsburgh
I realize this article is probably disjointed and disconnected in many ways but my love for the arts - ESPECIALLY BALLET- tends to override my brain and allows my heart to take over. Not a bad thing - not a bad thing at all. I will finish by saying that as long as I have the artistry of a Roberto Bolle, a painting by Caravaggio to study, Tchaikovsky to listen to and so many other, endless artistic things to love and enjoy, the darkness, apprehension and fear of my current situation will be a burden greatly reduced, a light at the end of a tunnel.
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