That’s Me in the Corner

let it shine, this light of mine...burn it down...what?!?

let it shine, this light of mine…burn it down…what?!?

“Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” –Napoleon Bonaparte

I haven’t been here in a while. I’m sure my absence has not gone unnoticed. My hands can feel the lack of intimacy they once enjoyed with my laptop. They are fumbling and clumsy and my brain struggles with both recalling ideas and monitoring my two left, thumb-heavy, hands. Some topics are harder to live with than others. Every time I come to the thought of this post, I find something far more satisfying to think about. This is my rationalization, in a paragraph or less.

I’ve given you a summation of my faith as it was influenced in my youth. This post is about my own journey into Christianity.

Like all worthwhile things in which a young male can find himself entangled, my Christian faith began with a girl. More to the point: a girlfriend. Her sister–who was ten, or so, years her senior had taken her to a church service. When she returned home she called me in an excited state. She was raised Catholic-ish and this church was an entirely different experience from that. She had enjoyed her time at Family Worship Center.
Family Worship Center was an Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Bible-Preaching, Pentecostal-Leaning group of people who were, and still are (as far as I know), being manipulated by a portly, affable, charismatic man, and his family. I wouldn’t learn that for a few years. When my girlfriend called me she invited me to a meeting. Looking back, it seems to me that, given her excitement, a young me might’ve had a hard time turning down such an invitation. At that time in my life I sought any excuse to leave my parent’s house and hang out with my girlfriend. I had little trouble. The conversation ended in what could be best described as an adolescent tiff. Read: deeply unsatisfying.

After the phone conversation, my girlfriend and her sister prayed for me. This was revealed to me after I had reconsidered my initial reaction to her invitation called her back and accepted. My young mind had a hard time contextualizing this fact. Once I had given my life to God and asked Jesus into my heart, I put my girlfriend’s prayer in the “miracle” category. It was the first sliver of evidence that God had any interest in me. As I age I’ve come to realize that my reconsidering an irrational reaction to an invitation does not require divine intervention. I react irrationally then reconsider said reaction all. the. time…it’s how I roll, to use the parlance of the youth of a decade ago…

Boring. I started this post 6, or so, months ago. It felt like a good idea. I felt an obligation to explain something about myself. That obligation was made up…it was manufactured in my 41 year-old child’s brain, not to say I have a 41 year-old child. I, at the age of 41 (and into 42), have a child’s brain. Not to say that I extracted the brain of a living, healthy, and happy child and put it in a jar and added that jar to my collection of jar-bound treasures. I mean my brain is child-like.

I’m reading a book about writing a good memoir…I know it sounds like a circle-jerk, but it is a tad more satisfying, trust me. The author writes that the secret to recalling a memory is to hear the screen-door slamming. I agree with her: sound, or certain smells, or the mental image of the glimmer in a friend’s eyes are very reliable place-holders for memories. This is why I spent most of my twenties and the bulk of my thirties trying to forget most of those things. I hate letting all that hard work go to waste.

It’s like a detox…why would I want to detox? I spent a lot of money on those toxins. What kinda scam you runnin’ here, doc?

I regard my childhood memories like a street-person who has a vibe that can only reliably be described as: unhinged. I don’t want to be disrespectful, and as such, I want to acknowledge their presence. But I don’t want to lock in. I do not want to be the Hanoi landing-pad for their cerebral refugees.

My memories are like a distant cousin who went off his meds, against the wishes of everyone, save the voices in his head. In this scenario, I am me–nursing my third Ranger IPA because we are at a family reunion and I’m starting to catch a buzz and I need to keep my shit together (those of you who know me get that joke). The fresh beers are across the room–behind me, and I’m headed to the bathroom with one half of one warm IPA. My un-medicated cousin is standing on line for the same bathroom which originated my trip from being cold beer-adjacent to being loony cousin-adjacent. Then, he turns around and starts explaining the minutia of President Obama’s birth-certificate. And some things he’s been reading about Operation Jade Helm 15 on the web. So I’m stuck drinking a shitty beer and listening to things that I don’t believe or care about.

My childhood is like 9/11: of course I have questions. But I don’t want any fucking answers. You need to have your larger can in place before you start opening cans of worms like some kinda asshole–it’s just common sense.

So I’m not writing that post. Not now, maybe never…because I don’t have to. I went to Kaua’i to help build a Christian church community and during that time I realized: “I don’t give a fuck if anyone believes in the saving power of Jesus’ sacrifice”, because I don’t believe in it. It was just something someone told me and I believed it (and I mean, really believed it) for a couple of decades because it was a great distraction from life. At least it was for me.

I’ve gone into every situation thinking that it’ll work itself out. That is my resting face, life-choices speaking. That idea was never more challenged than when I went to Kaua’i as a church-planter and came home as a Deity-indifferent alcoholic. That shit did not work itself out. What the fuck, life? But life knows that I play the role of bully and victim seamlessly. I come by both honestly, and I’ve no predilection to apologize for either.

I do not regret going to that beautiful island-county, don’t get me wrong. I learned one very important life-lesson. I have no real sense of who I am. I don’t never know if I ever did. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t doing an impression of the person that the people around me wanted me to be. And I don’t know why that is. I know the blame falls on me. The onus rests on the individual to be said individual. That is true. But, why would I do the foot-work for a therapist who is destined to relieve me of a hard-earned buck or two? Or, mayhaps, I’ll die and it’ll still be a mystery. Either way, I’m no fan of spoilers. Let me enjoy the movie.

I am not a Christian. Nor am I a materialist. I’m comfortable with a reality that transcends my understanding. But, I’m not gonna try and figure it out. I figure that if that transcendent entity has an interest in me, it knows where to find me. If that happens, I suspect it’ll have some questions for me…I will have some questions too. You see: I’m a lover, not a fighter…but I’m a passionate lover. So, pack a lunch. Either way it goes down, calories will be burned.

One other thing, to nobody in particular, don’t give a person self-awareness and then demand that they deny themselves…that’s a dick move, bro…(or sis, ladies?)

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My Trip to San Francisco, or What I Did for my President’s Day Weekend pt. 1: The BART Squeals for the Blood of Healthy Proletarians

It was a cold morning about 3–an ungodly hour, the likes at which I had not dragged my drowsy skull out of bed in half a decade at least.  But today was different. I wasn’t getting up for work or to find out what that noise was in the backyard; I was catching a flight to San Francisco.  I was excited, and though I hadn’t gotten a bit of sleep, I had energy enough to shower, shave, and pack the last remaining essentials.  My friend Chris picked me up at 3:30, for which I was thankful, as I didn’t know how my wife and kids would handle a ride to the airport during the same small hours that plagued Emily Rose…creepy.  I was also thankful for the heated seats in his Tahoe.  We loaded up and hit the road.

The drive to the airport takes an hour-ish, give or take, depending at what time you’re driving, and Chris and I talked about all manner of things, though I can’t recall any of them.  My brains were scrambled from a lack of sleep and the impending trial that lay ahead…the TSA.  Dropping me off, Chris offered me some water that I couldn’t take because entering an airport with a bottle of water is tantamount to burning the American flag on top of an Alaska Airlines desk…”No I won’t be checking this, thanks.”

Anyone who has had the misfortune of flying both pre- and post-9/11 (never forget), realizes what has happened to what was once the majesty of air travel, one of the rare times when the common man could get a taste of the good life.  No more. Those days are gone, and while the new system levels the playing field in its own sick way, it gives me no joy to see the bourgeois forced to walk barefoot like me.  The young will only know airports the way they are now…passengers processed for incarceration, the perfect example of “toe the line” humanity judged guilty without trial.  Guilty?  For what?  Who knows…  And who the hell are you to ask?  You’re not in America anymore, you mindless worm, you’re in the airport!  Those who have no prior experience against which to compare it are lucky.  Dutifully, I took off all that was asked.  I shoved all of my belongings through the machine.  I presented my papers.  I allowed a full-body x-ray of myself, arms in air.  I received my number, tattooed on the inside of my left forearm.  I grabbed a cup of Joe at one of the seventeen conveniently located Starbucks and headed to the gate to board my plane.

My seat was next to a nice couple who were also flying down to San Francisco for a conference. Not a writer’s conference like me, a teacher’s conference.  They were going to learn how to become better at their craft, shaping the future of our country.  It was stunning to see examples of two different vocational sects, both of whom are grossly under-compensated for their efforts, and how differently they allow that information to form their work ethic.  There is a stunning chasm between the attitude of the American teacher and the TSA worker…mayhaps it exists because teachers know that they’re needed, and TSA agents know that their jobs are akin to playing war against a pretend enemy in the woods.  Eventually you get tired of being ready to show force against an enemy who never shows up and the people on your team start to suffer.  Regardless, these teachers were great to talk to; they had been married for many years and taught in school districts that were 200 hundred miles and worlds apart from one another in Eastern Washington.  This was my first trip to San Francisco and their fifth so I asked them some basic info on what to expect, which they happily gave me, and which I happily forgot.  I was overwhelmed, but the conversation helped the trip fly by (How dare you! Of course that pun was unintended…What am I, a clown?  Do I amuse you?).  We landed at SFO without incident.

After much searching and following of vague signage, I found myself at the loading dock of the Bay Area Rapid Transit train…the BART.  I had no idea for what I was in store.  I found a seat and away she went.  That horrible snake screeched its way through tunnels, over railways, into the heart of the Golden Gate city with nary a rest or breath.  “Why does it squeal like a stuck pig?” I yelled, over the noise, to an Asian gentlemen sitting on my left.  “They say she first started screaming like that because she was hungry for the blood of the common man,” he replied, “but now the blood is too salty and full of fat for any right-thinking transit system to ingest.  Now she just screams in horrific mourning of days gone-by.”  There were a couple of respites from the screaming. We sat in a tunnel for around half an hour while the tracks were inspected for damage after a minor earthquake that I never felt.  Then I was at the bottom of a hill named Powell Street and walking up to my hotel.  I had had two months to think about this trip, and still had no idea why I was here…