Friday, November 5, 2010

Beam Me Up

The First Drummer I Ever Played With Is Back In My Life
Falling Off The Wagon
I left the library yesterday, thinking that I wanted some red wine. I questioned my decision of going into a state of complete abstinence from alcohol and wondered if the health benefits of red wine "in moderation" were something that I could benefit from.
I went to the CVS and ascertained that they indeed had a bottle of red wine for 4 bucks. I stood out in front of the store for about 10 minutes, before chickening out and opting to go to the liquor store and buy one 99 cent shot of Jim Beam Black Whiskey.
I stood across the street from the liquor store while an internal debate raged. I knew that I was throwing away a 10 day streak, and would be back to zero days without alcohol. I decided to go in and get one, and then put it in my pocket until I had made up my mind if I wanted it. And there it stayed, until I saw a spot, on my way to the Shell to get cigarettes, which looked like a perfect place to hide and drink it.
I held the whiskey in my mouth and tried to taste it and ask myself (my "silent witness," if you are Buddhist) if I really wanted to swallow. I concluded that I didn't want to waste a dollar, so I swallowed it. I went to get cigarettes and then back for a second shot, because one was never enough. I hardly felt the effects of the Jim Beam, even after the second one. I headed into town.
On the way in, at Cathedral Park, I ran into Mike, who plays guitar and who I had sat with in the park before, playing songs and teaching him some. Mike was on his way to get a cold beer, and I walked with him to the store, where I got a shot of brandy, just to be social.
I then sat on my spot and played and made about 4 bucks, just enough to cover my extravagance. Then, it was time to go to the revival, as I had planned to do.
The Revival
I got to the building, only half drunk, an improvement over my first foray into it, and followed the sound of someone yelling through a microphone, down into the basement, where the revival is held. (Maybe they are getting the people acclimated to being down in a pit...)
There were a few people on their way out, as I was arriving an hour and a half after the thing had started. I ran into a man as I stepped off the escalator (which wasn't moving.) He recognized me from my playing on the street and reminded me of who he was. He was part of a group which came by my spot one night and gave me about 25 dollars, after I had casually mentioned that I was trying to make that amount, so I could get my ID. The group; came again about 2 months after that, by my other spot, and gave me a hamburger. They may have seen at that time that I hadn't made any strides in the way of playing without drinking malt liquor also, and reduced my blessing from 25 dollars to a hamburger, I don't know for sure.
He gave me a prolonged hug and told me to go right in to the revival and have a wonderful, blessed, miraculous time.
I went into the auditorium and started to walk up the center aisle toward the front. I wanted to get an objective look at things from up close and see what the revival was all about.
I had made it no more than half way there, when I was grabbed by the arm by a guy in a gray suit with a name badge on his lapel. He started to pull me towards the side, in the same way a cop pulls someone who he has just arrested towards his cruiser. "Come this way," he almost ordered me. "Am I being arrested?" I joked. "No, we're...we're glad that you're here," he said.
He led me to a remote part of the room to the extreme right of the stage (I hesitate to call it an altar) where there was a row of chairs which weren't in use. In fact, he and another gentleman in a gray suit with a name tag on the lapel had to remove a chair, which had been inverted and stacked upon the one which they were putting me in, from the one that they were putting me in, before putting me in it.
I sat there, as one of them took the chair which had been taken off of the one that I was in and sat in it, by my right shoulder, as if guarding me. They asked me my name. I told them. One of them asked me if I had been there before. I said "Once," referring to my first visit when I stayed all of 15 minutes, before leaving in disgust over the music. Then I saw traces of suspicion on the face of the man guarding me, mingled with his underlying bemused expression. It was as if he was heavily sedated and confused, and now suspicious on top of that.
I noticed that every person in the foremost section was standing with arms raised overhead and facing the guy on the microphone, who was booming out things that sounded cliche, like 'Right here, Right now!!"
The man went on to mention that they were being broadcast to something like 5 million homes, worldwide (and that none of them would see a guy with a backpack and a guitar at any time during the broadcast). Whenever the man had something to say which he deemed worthy of it, he would yell to the crowd "Look up here!!" They would then open their eyes, (taking their gaze off of the face of God?), and look up there.
Hey, Let Me Get 16 Grand Off 'Ya
Then, I realized that my arrival had been timed interestingly. The broadcasting stopped in short order, as they had fished their limit of airtime, I suppose. Then, matters turned to "the offering." The man told the crowd, "quite honestly," that 16 thousand dollars was required each night to keep the revival going at its most heavenly level.
He instructed them to (Look up here and) give money. (This, in a city which just outlawed pan-handling on the street, incidentally). His speech included short bursts of unintelligible (at least to me) language, which I assumed was spoken "in tongues." I noticed that "tongues" had a distinctive and consistent accent about it, as if it actually is derived from an alphabet with a finite set of syllables. It didn't sound too random. I'm sure it could be 'faked" pretty easily by anyone who might endeavor to take up that particular practice, for whatever purpose they might have for doing so.
I started to feel a coldness in the place. Turning to the man who was guarding me, I saw a look on his face which was hard to read. He reiterated that he was glad that I was there. And not over there, where I would be on camera, right?  He asked me my name once again, as it apparently hadn't stuck in his memory, given the Jesus-based stupor that he seemed to be in.
Eventually (15 minutes later) I had had enough. I picked up my pack and my guitar and started to leave. I was immediately grabbed by the coat-tail by the guy who was guarding me. It may be that the luckiest thing that had happened to the guy that day was, that I hadn't decided to take an additional shot of booze before attending, as, I was .04% away from snapping around and whacking his arm off of my person with a violence which may have broken his 65 year old bones. I got in his face and said "Put a hand on me again!!" I believe he wanted his hand on me even less than I did, at that point.
I felt greatly affronted, being grabbed such, from behind. "Go out this way," he said, motioning away from where the cameras were pointing.
I went out, but not before giving the finger to whoever in the crowd might have been looking my way instead of looking up there.
I walked to the church spot, contemplating giving John the Preacher a piece of my mind over "his" revival. I was sure that he was going to be there laying in his spot, which used to be one of my spots. After imploring me to attend the revival, he himself wouldn't  be there, but rather, at his sleeping spot. He sure was.
I walked past him, not saying a word. I thought I heard him laugh as I walked past, but attributed it to something coming through his headphones which he found humorous. I could easily have imagined him to be laughing and thinking "got 'cha!" in reference to having lured me into the farcical scene which was The Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival, which costs 16 thousand dollars per night to put on.
I sat on my spot and meditated, and asked Jesus if I had been wrong to have lost my cool and almost thrown a hay maker at a guy in a gray suit, hard enough to knock the name tag off of it. By and by, what came to me was something about "In my father's house there are many mansions," and that I would be living in one far away from people who hold their arms over their heads and sway to dumbed-down Christian rock music, absorbing power from the speakers. He told me not to persecute them, and that their faith in Him was what was making them throw down their crutches and walk in front of the cameras.
What I learned was to seek people who are fun to be around and who also have received the Holy Ghost. Many Mansions, I like that.....
At breakfast, I saw John the Preacher, who asked me if I had drank the previous night. He had assumed that to be the case after I walked by him without speaking. I explained that, yes, I had drank 4 shots of liquor, ending a 10 day fast from alcohol, but that I had walked past because I hadn't had anything "nice' to say at the time, and was only going to denigrate his chosen religion. I then denigrated it over breakfast, instead.
John Not Offended 
John agreed that the "televised" aspect of the thing was "phony" because they edit the content before broadcasting, and they only leave in the "good" parts. So, it's a 5 minute broadcast, John?
And that is the story of the 15 minutes that I wasted last night. I now harbor strong doubts about the veracity of stories about people getting up out of their wheelchairs, which they have been in for 25 years, and dancing the meringue to cheesy music, which is sprinkled with biblical cliches.
I don't know if I will go back to the revival again. I might just catch it on TV.

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