Mr. S Faces the Music

It started with a phone call. Mr. S called me while I was volunteering. In itself that was not so unusual, but he called while the area where I volunteered was open to members of the public, which was strange and not very appropriate. He had big news. The housing project Mr. S had been so excited about earlier was alive. He told me he was close to securing a $2.5 million deal between a soil remediation company and a developer. This was a bombshell. I had not heard anything about it.

But that was not all. Mr. S also wanted to organize a conference on homelessness, inviting some innovators from Scotland to be keynote speakers (apparently they were instrumental in getting Scotland to “outlaw homelessess”. Researching the matter now I think Mr. S was referring to the charismatically-named Homelessness, etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 which supposedly legislated entitlements to services for all people who were unintentionally homeless. But I digress).

Mr. S and Ms. R had been married for about a year. I had kept in contact with them, and although Mr. S was out in the community more he had lost the enthusiasm that had first drawn me to him. Now that enthusiasm was back, with a vengeance.

Over the next few weeks his enthusiasm grew and grew. Every day brought a new development, but oddly enough they were all about Mr. S’s proposed conference, and not about the development deal. Mr. S decided that to support the costs of the conference he would simultaneously hold a concert. He started talking to hotels and the Lurkville arena to arrange bookings. His initial thinking was that the concert would highlight local talent, but before long Mr. S was talking about inviting bigger and bigger stars. A few weeks in he was talking about getting Bono to perform (pro bono, of course).

Once again, Mr. S started obsessing about his concert and conference day and night. He would be up at all hours of the morning doing research. Once again, he started getting upset with anybody who talked about scaling things back, or questioned whether he could pull the concert and conference off. The local Lurkville newspaper wrote a brief article about Mr. S’s conference. The article was mostly positive, but Mr. S found a misstatement (hello Gell-Mann Amnesia) and it infuriated him. He started talking about taking the newspaper to court over the slight. To raise publicity, he challenged local (and then national) leaders to live homeless on the street for a week so they would understand homelessness better. He held press conferences for these publicity stunts. A few people came to the first one.

Once again, Mr. S was on an emotional rollercoaster: super-excited about the concert/conference one minute, and angry about some interpersonal friction the next. Once again, people who initially supported him in this new venture were dropping away, which did not stop him of calling people dream crushers.

And once again, very little was in writing. I did not see any evidence of the development deal. I did not see any evidence about how the conference was being organized, or what acts had confirmed themselves for the concert, or whether the people from Scotland were planning to come over, or even a concrete timeline for putting this on. I was worried, but Ms. R was distraught. I tried to comfort her by saying that at least this time things were happening, but she shut me right down. She said that this time things were much worse, because Mr. S really was phoning up arenas and hotels, and that meant her finances could be on the line if (she said “when”) things fell through. She said this was not more productive than Mr. S’s last burst of energy; it was much much worse.

And it was a pattern. Around this time I started learning about Mr. S’s support network back in New York: his aunt and uncle, several childhood friends, and his ex-wife. They were familiar with this pattern. It probably had something to do with how Mr. S had ended up in Lurkistan in the first place. He left his ex-wife (abandoning the son he and his ex-wife had adopted), met Ms. R on the Internet, and left his New York life to move to Lurkistan on an impulse and a dream. You didn’t need to be a handsome Arizona psychiatrist to figure out what was going on, but you needed to be more perceptive than I was. I didn’t get it until Ms. R laid the situation out plainly, in terms even I could understand.

About a month after the initial phone call, Ms. R had had enough. She left their shared apartment and moved in with her daughter from a previous marriage. She gave Mr. S three months to leave the apartment, because then the lease would be up. Mr. S had no money and no work permit. It was clear he would not be able to pay rent. Despite his marital troubles he was still determined to put together his concert an conference, ignoring the impending issue of his own homelessness. What was he to do?

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