Sunday, January 18, 2015

Call Me Bill

This is my first post on my new 'Blog. I'm hoping this will eventually become a daily habit. Maybe I might even put up more than one post a day. Maybe I'll put up several.

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Billy Jack Long. My parents didn't name me William and I don't have a Southern drawl. When people meet me and don't have any preconceived idea of what I will be like they think I might be like Billy Bob Thornton or Tommy Lee Jones. Bill Thornton is from Arkansas and Tom Jones (you see now why he uses his real name) is from Texas. I have dabbled in acting; I have been in two movies (as what is known in the trade as a background actor, what we laymen call an EXTRA). I am from Southern California and I have worked on and off in the entertainment industry over the past 40+ years, mostly as a musician. My instrument is the tuba.

At the time I am on hiatus from playing the tuba because of health problems but as soon as I have a surgery approved, I will be playing again. My job now is that of a freelance ghostwriter. A ghostwriter is a professional author whose work is not acknowledged by the publisher. Some people would say that's a bad thing. But I like my anonymity. That's why I choose to live in a small town in the middle of the desert.

Only at the present time I am staying in Moreno Valley, California, as during a family emergency. I won't say much about this except to say that I covet your prayers. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. On Friday, July 23, 1971, at 8:30 PM, at the First Southern Baptist Church of Colton, California (now the Sierra Vista Baptist Church), I gave my heart to Jesus Christ and I am His forever. Nothing can take me away from Him.

I'm not exactly what you would call a religious person. I read my Bible daily. I pray often. I always try to do the right thing. But I have also done many things in my life which I know embarrass God and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Between 2005 and 2007 I lived with a woman to whom I wasn't married. I am divorced and I have remarried to a beautiful Arab woman from Damascus. She has forgiven my past.

Some other things people may find interesting about me: I have been homeless but I am not one to give money to beggars. I never begged myself. I was always able to get work to support myself or asked for help from family members. I never had a problem with receiving gifts from people (unless the act of giving it to me was demeaning). As a "starving" graduate student with a wife and kids, I accepted food stamps and welfare money. Since working on my master's degree was the main gist of what I was doing I never had any problem accepting the food stamps or the money. Once I got out of school, I stopped that, although I was still struggling. Years later as a homeless man, I realized someone who did the kind of work I did (and still do) was something welfare departments can take advantage of. I was on food stamps (by this time they were using EBT cards) for one year and realized the whole system is meant to take advantage of people so that the workers can do the required hours they need to keep their jobs. After that year, I only took gifts from people who donated things willingly without it coming from public funds. Welfare actually keeps a person so busy there is no time to work. When I was homeless, I lived in an unused bus waiting shelter, a public rest room with a lock on the door, and my car. The best of those was the public rest room with a lock because I could actually sleep without all my clothes. Think of it this way: When riding a train, it's harder to sleep in a chair car than it is in a private bedroom or roomette. Anyway, I have more to say about homeless people later. I do believe that there is a lot of misunderstanding on both sides.

Consider the time I would often use a service station rest room to wash up and shave before I went to church. One Sunday morning I went in there and the place was a mess. I tried to clean the place but it was really bad. The next week the owner told me I could never go in there again. Unfortunately, his security camera didn't show who was in the rest room making the mess. Homeless people are often blamed for many things that normal, but disrespectful, people do. So eventually, I am hoping to start a ministry for homeless people who should never have to go through the indignation I went through.

Because of my poverty in the past few decades, many people may find certain things about me to be different, if you knew me in high school or college. Here are some things you definitely need to know:

  1. I never make jokes about money. Money is a very serious thing to me. The Bible teaches that the love of money is the root of all evil. However, money in itself is a very necessary element of life.
  2. Food should never be wasted. If I order food at a restaurant that I don't like, I will still eat it. Unless it's dirty, I can eat food I find on the ground. But only if I am really down and out (and no one is looking.)
  3. Nothing offends me more than rudeness. If I seem rude to you I want to know it.
  4. An apology is more than saying, "I'm sorry." It is so much more than that.
  5. An educated person should have enough words in his/her vocabulary not to use profanity. I do believe profanity DOES have its place if someone really needs to let off some anger. But one should be careful about who hears the profanity. 
  6. You are only responsible for that for which you are responsible. 
  7. But at the same time, you are known by the company you keep. 
  8. But then some good people may not reflect some of the values you hold dear. For example, some of my closest friends are tobacco users. I am a militant nonsmoker but I have friends who do smoke. If you are good friends such differences should not be a problem.
  9. Morals transcend politics.
  10. Politics is a dangerous thing.
  11. Conservative does not mean bigoted.
  12. Liberal does not mean open minded.
  13. It's OK to judge people whose bad judgment may upset your morals and damage your character.
  14. We are all inches from being poverty and homelessness.
  15. Governments were never meant to take care of people who should be minding their own business. Nonprofit charities (and private people) should feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, and heal the sick.
  16. You only have one chance to make a first impression.
  17. Lie to me once and I'll have trouble believing you again.
  18. The world judges a nation by the morality of its leaders.
  19. Everything tastes better with bacon. If my bacon offends you it makes more for me.
  20. Sharing is one of the most positive things a person can do with his/her life. (I will gladly share my bacon with you. Unless it offends you.)
  21. It's OK to play by the rules. (Especially when the rules come from the Bible.)
  22. Not everything in life is fair. There will always be poor people. There will always be rich people. There will always be selfish egomaniacs who take advantage of ignorant people. 
  23. It's impossible to destroy ignorance.
  24. Good rules have a place in society.
  25. Never ridicule anyone for what he/she believes. 
  26. Never live by a belief system unless you can believe it with your whole heart and live by it. (And don't consider it detrimental if you fall from living by it. We are human.)
  27. There is a difference between a human being and an animal.
  28. Life is temporary. You only have one chance.
  29. These statements are not a Bible. They only explain what I believe. Never use a substitute if you can get the real thing.
  30. There will always be jerks, perverts, egomaniacs, charlatans, hucksters, thieves, pornographers, murderers, drunks, airheads, idiots, enemies, and other people who should be avoided. Stay away from them and make it your goal not to be one of them.
If you knew me in high school there were things I believed about myself then that were never true about me:

  1. I thought I wanted to graduate from high school early. That was a mistake. Knowing what I know now, I would do things totally different.
  2. The most stupid thing I ever did was quit the Colton High School Band in October 1973. I had a "job" with the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra (we only played four concerts in 1973-74). And the orchestra ended up "trying out" another tuba player at the end of the season. I only ended up getting paid for two concerts (a grand total of fifty bucks, sheesh!)
  3. Today, rather than proceed immediately to college, I would have enlisted in the US Army at age 17, immediately upon my graduation from high school. I might have even stayed in as a career.
  4. I never wanted to be a teacher. In hindsight I know I was a control freak to other people. 
  5. My favorite colors are brown and pink. 
  6. I do my best to think before I speak.
  7. I do my best to hear you while you are talking  rather than concentrate on what I am going to say while you are talking.
  8. It's OK to admit failure. Failure is not a weakness but the ability not to accept failure is bad.
  9. There will always be someone better than me.
  10. The best person for a particular job isn't always the one who can do it best.
  11. It's always best to steer clear of alluring traps before they snag you.
  12. Put other people before you in everything you do.
  13. Never base a romantic relationship on the sex you can get from it. 
  14. Love is never selfish. Even self love puts others ahead of oneself.
  15. "Falling in love" is often infatuation. 
  16. "Falling in love" with oneself is a dangerous defense mechanism that should be avoided like the plague.
  17. Sometimes obituary columns are a good place to find a job.
  18. Your best may not be the best. Accept that. If your friends can't accept that, tough for them.
  19. Try to live by your faith. God may have to work with you on this. Let Him.
  20. It's OK to be scared of something.
  21. It's OK to cry, if the tears are genuine.
  22. Hard work never fails,although the results may be different than what you expect.
  23. If you consider yourself an expert about something, let someone else say it about you first. Be tested before you admit it.
  24. Count to ten before anything bad happens.
  25. Sinning does not make you a failure but piety can.
Well, I think you have some idea of what kind of person I am. I will tell you more about the people who are close to me in coming weeks. I will try to have something every day although this isn't always possible.

Have a good holiday on Monday.

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