On Being Apostate

You Can Blame Me

It seems that the reason so many are so miserable is me. My adjectives, WASP, cis-hetero male, from parents who busted their ass to give me a better life, makes me bougie and bougie is evil. Being bougie means that my existence is a sin. So I owe a debt to those who are not bougie that I must somehow repay. All because I was born this way. About that . . . about on being apostate.

This debt is evergreen. Whatever I do, no matter how much I genuflect before the proletariat, I am still despicable simply because of my parents. If I had 40 acres and a mule to give it would not be enough. I am born into a debt because somehow I had advantages I owe to someone who isn’t kin to me.  Mao is so wise.

Those who fight White Privilege are racist. I’ll explain. First, they need a narrative that names an oppressed class who are suffering under an oppressor of their choosing. They declare that African-Americans are all Stepin Fetchit enslaved by white plantation owners. Just being a WASP is ipso facto proof of White Privilege.

Rather nicely, two groups are tagged with adjectives they cannot be free of. Both end up being shit on, one because they are prevented from any agency that would challenge their designation as oppressed and the other because they are prevented from being anything other than the enemy of the oppressed.  This is what social justice looks like.

My Apostate, White Privileged, Pimply Ass

White Privilege is a cocked up reason to feel guilty for being born into a WASP family. It makes great virtue signal and excuses a personal obligation to be accountable for our shit. The problem isn’t us, it’s our parents, who stupidly had sex and didn’t get an abortion. Idiots. Wikipedia says this about White Privilege.

White Privilege is rooted in Marxist thinking. It’s a version of the anger against the bourgeoisie. To be bougie is a sin, the thinking goes. So, we grind through all the bougie people and stuff and shit out anything and anyone of any value. For the very reasonable price of only 90% of our income and the surrender of all privately held assets. No problem.

I should be overjoyed at paying 90% of my income to a dear leader because, white privilege. Obviously, I am oppressing black people simply because I had the misfortune to be born to upper-middle-class WASPS. Next is the minister who triggered these 1700 words.

Reverand Katie Mulligan

Allow me to introduce the Reverend Katie Mulligan. Katie gave the sermon last Sunday at my Dad’s church. I grew up in this church. There is so much I didn’t know or understand back then. These days, my beef with my Dad’s church has changed. Katie’s sermon tells me that rather than speak tradition to peer pressure they have decided to be with the cool kids. Katie seems to be someone who has decided that she wants to be one of the cool kids so she’s attached cool kid adjectives to her personal brand.  I was the kid bullied by the cool kids.

Why I Live at St. Giles

Since then I’ve been a member of various churches. I keep coming back to being Presbyterian. In part because I too love to argue. These days I am a member of St Giles.  First Pres Pitman and St. Giles are very different churches.  Keith’s sermon last Sunday:

White People are the Cause of It All

Katie chose to focus on white privilege. Whoa. So my entire major malfunction is my heritage as a WASP? It really is my Mom’s fault? I’m so relieved. And here I thought that it was some Freudian id thing.  It must be that Jung was the real crackpot. Kinda sucks that I wasted all that money and energy on therapy when it really was my parent’s fault.

My problem with Katie’s sermon is that it is anchored in Marxist beliefs. Marx is an enemy of Christ. Marx taught the proletariat to hate the bourgeoisie. Those who follow Marx need two things: a proletariat and a bourgeoisie. Where one of these does not exist they set about creating it. Ergo most of the tropes regarding privilege, disparity, isms, etc. They need peeeple who are oppressed so that they can champion for them. It cannot be that the peeeple are in fact, fine.

Marx’s enemy was the Czar of Russia. His period is the early 20th Century when Capitalist Industrialism was the envy of some and a reason to revolution for others. Things can be made fairer by making everything owned and controlled by the government. Didn’t, doesn’t work.

Zoshul Just This

I don’t want to get too deep into my dislike of all the social justice movements that point to Marx as their philosophical roots. Modern Protestant thinking anchors our faith in a personal relationship with Christ. So the path to social justice begins with each of our hearts. The method is deeply Jewish–a tithe of 10% given to the church who in turn uses it to pay the bills and meet communal needs. It is different from Marxist ideas of government where the tithe becomes a tax and the authority to choose how the tax is spent is given to the party instead of the church.

The religious point I want to make is that we won’t anger our way to an answer for all the bougie sins laid at our feet. There is an evergreen stew of resentment and sins invented to explain why they are so miserable and we are so evil. After a while, though, life as a shunned whore living on El Camino de las Almas Perdidas en el Valle de la Sombra de la Muerte sounds better than the empty promises of an abusive pimp like the social justice movement of the day.

Katie Says

Katie asks us to either feel guilty for an accident of birth caused by a few moments of horizontal bop perpetrated by our parents or angry that the roulette wheel of life spun and we got the black square. Either way, it is evergreen. There is nothing I can do that will ever be sufficient for Katie to accept my restitution or repentance. I will forever be the enemy to her simply because I had the misfortune to be born a WASP with parents who busted their ass so I could have a better life. I owe a bottomless debt to those less fortunate than me on the basis of my race and choice of gender identity.

Thanks, Katie, that makes me feel so much better. Do you know a good supplier of worms I can eat while I dig my own grave because of the White Guilt you accuse me of?

You cannot be a Marxist Christian. The two are antithetical. Marx pointed to the bougie, to the privileged, to explain why the proletariat was so miserable. His answer was to destroy the bougie and redistribute their wealth to the proletariat. Millions died as a result. Katie wants me to be happy about this, to pick up a protest sign and offer my body as a holy sacrifice to atone for my white privilege. I’ll get right on that after I go insult another brown person.

Hail Ceasar

Christ’ enemy was his own church and the Roman Empire. Where Marx offers a replacement God-King who would be fairer than the Czar Christ’ kingdom has each of us as its cornerstone. We are, individually, the resurrected kingdom, the new temple. Instead of anchoring a solution in the God-King and our self-worth defined by our place in the hierarchy Christ turns to us and asks each of us to do our part. Jesus was far more anarchist than imperialist. Marxism is just imperialism with a set of rules preferred by revolutionaries.

Katie, if you want us to fix this the answer is old and simple. Instead of looking to a pseudo-religious ideology that teaches hate for your way and worth, look again to Christ. The Beatitudes are a place to start. I’ll repeat my essentials as a suggested way: love kin, friends, neighbors and enemies alike, when in doubt, give grace and mercy first, surrender everything so that the only thing left is a desire to love Christ, be humble and quiet, as these are presented to you, do small acts of kindness of great love, and last, service and missions first.

I doubt that Katie and I will agree on much. Instead of being a light on a hill PCUSA chooses to placate its abusers in the name of diversity and inclusion. Katie, sorry, you chose to be angry at me and threaten to shun me because I happen to believe that Christ called me to something other than hating myself because I happened to land on the white square of the roulette wheel of life. I’ll pray for you.

Not One of the Cool Kids

My Jesus is absurd. He says stupid shit like, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” He asks me to love people who I’d like to punch in the face. Instead of offering me a free cell phone because I say I need it he wants me to serve the poor, the aged, and prisoners with no hope of return. Katie’s Jesus offers safe spaces featuring coloring books and snacks to insulate her from the trials of absurd living according to the way of a martryed carpenter. It indulges us in every whim. Don’t like dating guys? No problem, date women. Can’t decide what gender identity feels right? No problem, don’t decide. Born something other than white and life sucks? Poor thing, it’s not your fault. It’s those evil white people pissing on your future.

My Jesus told me to stop whining, to shut up and that I would work for Him. I don’t get safe spaces or all that is offered within them. I am not a cool kid. Some say that I am the reason they are so fucked up. It is because I happen to be born to WASP parents that I am obligated to brown people for sins I was born into. Where are those worms and my shovel?

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Painful Claws

Uhm, No, Before That

Before I get started, a little housekeeping. First, to keep Yoast SEO happy, painful claws. Next, I started this post while it was still too hot to stay at home. It was still summer. I don’t have air conditioning. My house gets hot. 90°F outside and my house will also be 90°F.  Tucker was published before this one. So while I’ve edited this post to fit its place in the blog it was originally written as the episode before Tucker.

Painful Claws FiredYou need to know this because the conversation below happened in August. Losing my job was fresh. It’s November 2018 as I continue working on this post. Being fired is old news. Tucker was written last week, in October, when my world shifted to my old trade of cab driving. I added the wrinkle of starting a small business.

That’s some backstory to help you understand the conversation below, that is published in November when the events in it happened in the summer and precede the Tucker post.  Confused? So am I. Let’s get on with it.

Cat Scratch Post

The kitten is just playing. My forearm is an imaginary mouse trying to get away. Ow. Painful claws. Inger keeps coming over with more stuff related to her meddling in the investigation of the finger she found in the whip. My spare bedroom was clean. I gave the bed away. That’s done. Why does it take three houses to investigate an abandoned car? Why does one of those houses have to be mine? Can I have my extra room back? The kitten feels that she needs my extra bedroom for her investigation. Feelings, lately, have become irrefutable facts. So the need for my extra bedroom is now an irrefutable fact.

Where I had a clean room there is now an olive green, four drawer filing cabinet, a mid-century task chair that looks military surplus, a desk that isn’t a desk, more like one of those tables I remember from metal shop in high school, and a twin bed covered in expensive cotton bedding with an eruption of pillows.

All the man-cave feels of my house are being disrupted. It even smells nice. Luscious Pumpkin Trifle? Seriously?

✠ ✠ ✠

This happened: I’m not working at Altria anymore. I haven’t told Inger/kitten. But . . . she’s making dirty dishes as I type this in the kitchen. Wait. Do I have an espresso machine? When did that happen? Now she knows, “when did you lose your job?”

Last summer.

How do you lose your job. I thought you were this awesome enterprise computer tech dude. Who loses a job like that. Are you stupid?

I kinda want to talk about fingers in whips.

No. We are talking about you losing your job.

I don’t know. It was Friday, my bosses boss calls me and says that Altria asked that I be let go. No explanation and I had 5 minutes to get my stuff together before being walked out of the building.

So . . . you are not awesome? Any idea why they let you go?

No clue. The only thing is my running fight with a guy I nicknamed “banana slug” on this blog.

What did your boss say?

That it was an HR matter now.

Oh. Yeah, you pissed somebody off.”

Cat Scratch Post Painful ClawsProbably. Anyway, I’m self-employed now.

What do you mean?

You were still living on Stewart Street when I set up Baugh Holding Company in 2016. It was a paper tiger until I lost my job. I got discouraged and threw away the paperwork.

What the fuck!? I don’t understand. How do you lose your job if . . . unless you have been lying to me about doing well there. And . . . why would you throw away the company’s paperwork?

✠ ✠ ✠

Can we talk about your case?

Nope. Not done yet. Ok, what’s Baugh Holding Company? And you didn’t answer my question–are you a liar?

Truth? Baugh Holding Company is a way for me to do the money right with my various revenue streams and whims.

Answer me. Were you lying to me about Altria?

No. I had problems but they weren’t the sort of things that get one fired.

That sounds sketch. Somebody isn’t telling the whole truth.

Maybe so. Nobody said anything other than, “it’s an HR issue.

So you call yourself self-employed and the company is Baugh Holding Company?

Kinda. Baugh Holding Company owns other businesses that make money. Right now it’s Transit Webb, an UberX Rideshare Partner (3ea79). I have other ideas in the pipeline.

And that’s enough to keep this place going?

I hope so. So far, yes.

You better. I’m not carrying you. Is that what you’ve been doing weekend nights?

Yes. I’ve booked $2300.00 since I started full time.

That’s not a lot. I hope it gets better.

Agreed. Inger missed her calling. Her cappuccino looks awesome, “So, what’s up with the case?”

Not much.

Right. Since returning to UberX as my job, I am taking Sunday through Wednesday off. It’s Tuesday morning. I’m not expecting anybody. There is a big door knock on my front door. A cop door knock, “Mr. Webb, are you home?

Officer Harris

Fuck. What now? The kitten suddenly gets a look on her face and disappears out the back door.

Kitten has a court appearance for her assault arrest after the thing at Black Hand Coffee. AFAIK she’s not wanted. So her quick exit out my back door is odd. Officer Harris is at the front door with another cop I recognize from when that guy got shot and died in a neighbor’s backyard.

I open the front door, “Hey, Khalid, how are you?

“Good. Is Inger here?”

“She just left?”

“Mind if I come inside?” Now, he’s a cop and needs a search warrant but I don’t mind so I open the door wider and let him in. My house is 670 sq ft. You can search it in a couple of minutes even if you toss the bed.

3624, the resident stated that the suspect just left,” The radio crackles an acknowledgment.  We are in the kitchen and I sense a flurry of activity in the alley. “3624, the alley between east 15th Street and East 16th, an officer needs assistance.” If that’s Inger this isn’t good.

Officer Harris radios, “3624″, as he hurries out my back door.

Inger’s Ghost

Inger was gone for a week after that. There was a local news story about a woman being arrested in connection with a murder investigation. I ran into Inger again on a Monday. She was in the line at the Urban Farmhouse in Scott’s Addition. I was there for coffee and their WiFi so I could write. I tried to get her attention and after giving me a hard stare she pulled out her phone and dived into it. I’d been ghosted.

Two weeks later I saw her in her front yard at the 16th Street house murdering the overgrown plants that had infested her chain link fence. This wasn’t a kind pruning. This was a plant genocide. I stopped the car, “Inger, what’s up?

Through sweat drenched bangs, “Nothing. How are you?

Good good. Any news on the finger case?

“Not really. The DNA came back and Charles was in the car. It’s not clear if he’s a perpetrator or a victim.”

Oh ok. Keep in touch, ok?”

Yeah. Take it easy.”

You too,” and I drive off.

Black Hand Trouble

Then at the end of August, the kitten started spending more time at my house. She hadn’t found anyone who could fix the weird problem with her TV where it would show tweets about her that could only come from someone that knew her. Not a smart TV so that’s not it. And in a panic, she disconnected the TV from the way, the Internet, the cable box, everything. And yet it displays tweets that defy explanation. So, there is that.

I dunno. A lot of the way she acts towards me feels like more than just a safe space. I don’t think she’s got Daddy issues, but who knows. Her Mom is the big ovary, Momma Grizzly Bear type. Very helicopter. The Stuart Avenue place was her Mom’d doing. Dad works in DC for Altria on tobacco products. He’s up there a bunch. So, maybe not “my Daddy abandoned me” the way I hear it in my neighborhood. But mayhaps.

Things had been quiet with her until Black Hand Coffee happened. A little Patsy Cline to close out this post:

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Tucker

Black Hand Coffee

I picked up Inger from Tucker. She was hanging out with friends at Black Hand Coffee and had a breakdown. She started out explaining the abandoned car that was in front of my house last spring. In short order, it turned to a story about the car belonging to Donald Trump.

Prezzy Darling, she said, stole the car to escape the Secret Service and hook up with her at her East 16th Street house. The drugs and money the cops found belonged to the Donald. Ditto the used condom.

Tucker Black Hand CoffeeThen . . . she got triggered. There was a guy in line for coffee at Black Hand who had a scant resemblance to the Donald. Not Trump, obvi, but with Inger, once she launches there is no stopping her. She bolted from her table and ran up to the guy, trying to jump into his arms, “Donny!! What’s Up!

False Positive

Dude was stunned. Total deer in headlights. He didn’t catch her, Inger stumbled into the coffee counter and hit her head, “why didn’t you catch me, Prezzy Darling!? I thought we were a thing!

Inger touched her scalp and saw the blood on her fingers, “what did you do?” Dude didn’t, but now he was caught up in Inger’s reality distortion field, “DONALD!! Are you trying to kill me!?” He was not. Black Hand Coffee just become a crime scene.

Some of the cafe customers started to rush the guy believing Inger’s accusing tone of voice. There was some pushing and shoving as opposing narratives embodied were litigated in the cafe. The barrista pulled on the hand of Dude and both of them headed for the kitchen at the back.

Not the Donald

Friends of Inger sat her down away from the guy. There are cell phone videos and it’s clear that Inger is the aggressor.  Someone in the cafe called the cops to report an assault.

Officer Khalid Harris got there in a half-hour. It took another ninety minutes to collect statements and fill out the police report. Inger was still amped so her statement didn’t make sense. She still thought Dude was the Donald and that he had tried to kill her by shoving her into the coffee counter. Khalid listened to her and quietly requested medical transport, ‘Khalid! What the fuck!? I’m the victim here. That guy tried to kill me! What are you doing! I’ll have your job! Fucking asshole!” And so on.

Inger was cuffed, searched and placed in a transport van while they waited for the ambulance. That just enraged Inger so they had to pull her from the van, pepper spray her and put her in a hobble. All on YouTube with the usual recriminations about how the cops are brutal, uncaring asshats.

Broken Windows

The Twitter Outrage mob kicked into high gear. The evening after Inger was hauled away there was a mob that threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Black Hand Coffee. They finished the night on Monument Boulevard chanting, “No Justice, No Peace” on the median near the J.E.B. Stuart memorial. 3 arrests were made. Black Hand Coffee suffered some broken windows and a bit of charring from the Molotov cocktails.

CBS-6 interviewed one of the protestors who claimed that Black Hand Coffee was a racist cafe oppressing minorities. This was based on the name and an unchallenged assumption that Inger was brown and a lesbian. When the reporter tried to tell the protestor he was incorrect he shoved her in the face. The protestor also attacked the photographer. Riot over at that point. RPD stepped in and began pushing the crowd away from the J.E.B. Stuart memorial.

I drove by Black Hand this week. They are open. The broken windows are boarded up and the char scrubbed off the tan brick.

Sugar Cookie Finger

Inger is out. I picked her up last Monday. In her things were some summons charging her with assault and public intoxication. She’d stopped taking her meds because she was feeling good.  That bomb kept ticking all summer. Then she started talking about Halloween and it got weirder. Then Black Hand Coffee. The Secret Service said, “meh.” They looked into what Inger was saying and dismissed it.

tucker bloody fingerNow, the finger. I’m in the First Precinct. Inger’s Stuart Avenue house is in the Third. She’s created her own cross precinct footprint within the police department. The finger is in the hands of RPD and is evidence. Inger has Officer Harris’ card. She’s convinced that the Russian Mafia had something to do with the abandoned whip and that it is connected to the Donald. Officer Harris is convinced that Inger needs better meds. Inger is on the Secret Service’s radar now, though.

Officer Harris came to my house and spent a half-hour asking me what I knew about the whip and Inger. I pointed him to the two prior blog posts on the story: Inger’s Finger and No Pulse, Just a Finger.  Khalid said they had DNA from the whip and were investigating. It’s not clear who the stray finger belonged to.

Bougie Breakfast

So, Inger . . . has turned her East 16th Street house into her own private detective office. She doesn’t have the evidence that the cops have so she’s been using her social connections to follow up leads. This is not making friends and influencing people within RPD. I mentioned Inger to Khalid and he let out a snort then an annoyed look flashed across his face. He doubled down, “we are looking into it.”

I’m writing this from my desk in the extra bedroom. Door knock. I hear the back door unlock. It’s her, “Alan I’m hungry.

Kitten has a dry pantry you could eat out of for a  year. She throws away food in her fridge because it’s gone bad. The last time I was over there her trash was full of Chinese takeout containers.  She had wings and veggie fried rice circled on East Villa’s menu, “And you want me to cook?

I mean, if you want to.”

Not Cooking Today

There is plenty of stuff in the fridge, help yourself,” I guess I didn’t want to fast enough. Inger gives me a dirty look and then starts opening and slamming closed the few cabinets I have in my galley kitchen. She bangs pots and pans as she works. My stove has a drawer on the oven that makes a satisfying bang if you aren’t careful closing it. She wasn’t careful.

It’s 11 am on a Monday, my day off. Since getting fired in August I’ve been working six days a week doing Uber and Lyft. I was up at 6:30 as usual and ate breakfast then.

Tucker Madeleine cookie

I find this interesting. On Stuart Avenue everything is pretty. Nothing is ever out of place. The fridge is immaculate. Everything came from either Whole Foods or Ellwood Thompson’s. Inger tells me that her Mom and her people take care of Stuart Avenue. If she was there she could get her Mom’s chef to cook for her and it would be lovely. 16th Street? Not so much.

Wingz

And this is the thing for Inger. She wants something of her own. Something she made. It would be so easy to slip into her lane, use her Gender and Sexuality Studies minor and Political Science major to work on K-Street, hook up with Charles, and slow walk through a career in lobbying, some kids, and retirement with a nice GS5 pension. All that went away when Inger lost her shit and claimed that a co-worker raped her. Plus, the stench of Charles still lingers on Stuart Avenue.

tucker chicken wingsEast 16th Street is a dump. It smells of hickory smoke, greens, and bacon. For the neighborhood it’s bougie. But Inger is from Old Gun Road. Her Mom thinks the house is a dump. This pleases Inger. Plus, the neighbors don’t really care what goes on inside her house.

She made two french omelets, “You are out of eggs. I made Orange Juice. Hungry? ” she asks me while doing something on her phone.

Not really, but the omelet looks good. Again with the tablecloth, cloth napkins, and service from Saks. Inger has upped her toothbrush game to include one of my kitchen cabinets. I seem to be the middle path between antiseptic and photogenic Stuart Avenue and chicken wings East 16th Street.

Stray Finger

What’s the latest on the stray finger?

Khalid is looking into some leads that point to Charles. I hope so. Asshole.

Chuck E Cheese, last I heard, was off the radar in Taipei competing in Fortnite. Inger is good there, “what points to Charles?”

The cops found an ac adapter for an XBox One and some dandruff. I had a swab of the back seat that I paid to have analyzed. Some of the DNA matched Charlie boy. He’s in ancestry.com. Creepy bastard.” You can say the evidence points to him being in the whip at some point. It doesn’t explain the expired New Jersey temporary tags or the pile of fast food leftovers with a receipt from Earl of Sandwich. “Plus, I found evidence of blood all over the way-back. I couldn’t get a sample, though.

Topic change. How are you? That was a pretty nasty scab on your scalp.” I haven’t heard anything more from the local news about what happened at Black Hand Coffee. Inger seems to have let it go except for the cut on her scalp, “I’m good. Scalp cuts bleed a lot so they look worse than they are. I got a couple of stitches and have to go to my doctor next week.

How about your meds?

Yeah, uhm, can you take me to the pharmacy? It’s CVS on West Broad at Boulevard.” Sure. Woo. Inger didn’t clean as she cooked. I don’t bother to ask who is washing dishes. I already know. Dirty dishes in the sink for just us two. I start to wash up. That gets me a hug.

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The Grind

The Grind, Repeat

Before I get back to Inger’s Finger I need to talk about something. It’s something I saw in myself and in other cab drivers when I was a yungin. We all start the same way. Young and naive, full of energy and surety that we can slay every dragon that crosses our path. We meet dragons, slay dragons, go home with the boon, rinse, repeat, for a while until the dragons get wise to us and change the way they fight. We want to keep winning so we start the grind.

This photo of Royal Enfield Bike Tours & Rentals is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The grind is exciting at first. We have our health and it feels like we can do this forever. We can’t. 60 hours a week driving a cab builds into 120 and that early taste of easy success fades with a half-life we didn’t expect. It takes every bit of those 120 hours to chase down the money we need and even then, we fall short.

Some of us start with a familiar spot in a pew, graduated from choir boy to altar boy, on the cusp of college and a bright future. Cab driving is just a summer thing to get some extra money before heading off to college and an education in defeating really, really big dragons. Then something happens. Either bad news or good, either work. And the fall start of college fades further into the future.  We start to grind, trying to save that bright future from the scorch of a dragon’s breath.

El Camino Real al Infierno

Some start with a less admirable story and try to use the cab to grind our way up from the gutter where society tossed us. Sometimes it works and we make it to the curb. Yay. This space isn’t for the ones that make it. We are the other end of the curve, down there on a rock-strewn road through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

It’s a frog in a pot thing. The heat rises in our lives, we become more frenetic, try to work harder until we collapse. Outside my cabin, on El Camino Real al Infierno, are rotting corpses of those who didn’t quit until their grind ended here. If folk are lucky the collapse gets them a ride to the hospital, jail or rehab, maybe all three. Whether their grind makes them a dragon scat neighbor of mine is determined by whether they stick with the truth that this is rock bottom and the way back up is life changing and very tough.

Wayne Ziegler’s moment came when he got hurt on the job as a contract welder. He was being paid under the table, had a functional addiction to cocaine, whiskey, and weed. He loved and left a long string of women who thought they could fix him up into the Daddy they never had. Women–don’t try this at home. Someone like Wayne will just break your heart. Go flirt with that guy in church you know. Much better.

Wayne’s Hell

So, Wayne came to Napoleon Taxicab with his health and a good head on his shoulders. But his knees were shot from welding for so many shifts. He had the usual middle-aged first world satellite of health problems–high cholesterol, high blood, high sugar, and chronic pain. He was used up.

But welding isn’t kind to old men like him. The big money jobs require physical stamina that he had lost. For a while, the three sirens–cocaine, whiskey and weed, could shout down the pain. Until they could not and he failed a piss test after getting hurt.

Cab driving was good for him while things began collapsing in. His longest girlfriend left with their daughter for a DC lawyer she met at Paper Moon. He couldn’t afford the house by himself so he moved to a no-tell motel. No job and thus, no medical insurance so his legal drug bills skyrocketed.

He started with the White Nurse. As always, it was good at first. And as always, the early good began to eat his soul. More grind. His even horizon narrowed from weeks down to days down to hours down to minutes. The addict’s choice: drugs or food, drugs or shelter, drugs or her, came down on drugs. He lost the hotel room.

The Street Doesn’t Love You

Wayne in the hospital. He couldn’t afford his drugs so his dealer said he could fight somebody for a little bit of White Nurse. Wayne, before all this, was 280 pounds of six feet eight muscle. He won bar fights when someone threw the first punch and Wayne didn’t feel it. When Wayne punched back the loser felt the punch in his toes. That was then. Now he was in the ER with a severe concussion and contusions near his kidneys. It hurt to breathe. He needed his White Nurse even more.

The ER doc called the social worker who started the intervention speech. Right, right. He was a mess but all he needed was a little taste and he’d be ok. He just wanted to get back to work in the cab. He’d be fine.

Hospitals can’t keep you if you insist on leaving. Wayne insisted. The Town Motel took sympathy on him and believed him when he said he’d have money for the room after his next shift. The taxi gods smiled on him and at 9:00 am he got a cash trip to Fredericksburg.

The street put him in the hospital and the street teased him with just enough money to get him through the next fourteen hours.

This is the end. The street doesn’t love you but it may give you what you need if you fight to stay healthy. Wayne fought to stay a step off the gutter and the street ate him. In eighteen months Wayne went from the gutter to the grave. He died from complications related to opiate addiction.

This is the Beginning

The grind is corrupt. It is evil. It wants your soul. If it takes killing you, so be it. There is a way to make the grind rock bottom. It takes discipline and strength from God. A place to start is Celebrate Recovery’s Eight Recovery Principles.

I didn’t imagine there were 1500 words on this until I met two corporate executives who were grinding at an expensive level. They worked 16-18 hours a day, flew over 200 days a year, seldom saw their families, and were shallow husks of humans. Nothing was left but the grind and it didn’t love them the way they wished it would.

400 words left. I lost my job. I am an UberX partner. It’s cab driving with better dispatch, nicer cars and shorter hours. The money is less than cab driving. I’m 58, almost 59 as I type this. I could be Wayne. No job and Medi-Share is stupid. It’s Obummer care but run by Christians, so that’s supposed to make it better. I can’t get my diabetes meds covered by Medi-Share. They don’t cover routine care. It’s only once I get sick enough to require hospitalization that they will step in. Sucks.

The right way to do cab driving or RideShare is the way the Henrico County Sherrif’s Office said they wanted to see it done. Each driver should create an LLC with its own tax id and run the money through the LLC. Do all the smart things one does to make a small business a success.

Transit Webb

So . . . out of the comforts of corporate cube rat life into the grind as a small business owner. Baugh Holding Company operates Transit Webb, which is the UberX business. In process is a second vehicle that will do Amazon Flex.

I’m too old for more cube rat life. There isn’t enough time left before I’m expected to retire to accumulate enough assets to secure my post cube rat life. Thus, I’ll go back to what I know, to the grind in a cab, with the hope that I can build a business which will pay me beyond the days when I can run 30 fares in 10 hours five days a week.

Transit Webb has been in business for only a month. There is no guaranteed outcome. I could join my festering corpse neighbors along the Royal Road to Hell. It could work and I could be fine. Time will tell.

Most of the entreprenuers I have met tell their rock bottom story. A retail fixturesmanufacturer who didn’t know that stores order their fixtures in the summer to be delivered in November and paid in December. His first year he lost $300,000.00. A brewpub owner who was a month away from breaking even and out of cash. He had mortgaged his home to start the brewpub. In a month he would either be homeless or assured of limited success. Transit Webb is limping along in a rented SUV with all my bills past due.

The stories have a theme: it is the end, the dragon is chewing us after dousing us with ketchup. All seems lost and yet, like the archetypical heros tale, something happens and we come out victorious. I don’t know yet what that will be for Transit Webb. I do know that for 16 years I get into these places where it looks like my new address will be a cot in a homeless shelter and then things work out. If you ask me how I feel as I type this I’ll tell you I feel like dragon scat. But so far, I’ve survived. More on this in upcoming posts.

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Inger’s Finger

You know how if you feed a stray cat it won’t go away.  I let Inger stay in my living room and obsess over the finger she found in the whip for all of Saturday. It ought to be a good thing that a SHYT is stretched out on my couch under my comforter, the extra pillows propping her up and the TV remote somewhere under all that hair and blanket. It’s not. Inger’s finger is a problem. I want this kittie to go home. I want my house back.

And now for one of my usual tangents.  There are things about Inger I have not figured out yet. Then I ran across Katie Was Here. Exactly. What was Inger doing between her freakout at the social media company and her discovery of a finger in a whip? Whelp, not what Katie was doing because Katie is IRL and Inger isn’t. But now I can steal bits of IRL from Katie’s story to fill in some gaps about Inger. Katie, if you read this, sorry. You’ll figure out soon enough that I earn my nom de plume of Chief Liar at the Liars Club. I take things IRL and twist them to suit my purpose in telling a story.

So, the answer? Inger hitched her way around the country ticking off places on her bucket list. She chose not to use a car. So, Inger was living outside for a while. Oh, and for the SEO bots, Inger’s finger is in evidence with the RPD. Yes, I know that one also, that if there is a gun in the first act, well . . . B.A. in English, Literature, ok.

Ginger Hairy Blanket

Movement in the area of the couch. A hairy blanket just traversed from living room to bathroom. It’s only eight feet or so. Bathroom door closed and then reopens to toss my red towel and washcloth from homeless shelter days to the hallway. To get to the kitchen I’ll have to either step on it or pick it up, “Your shit stinks,” said the hairy blanket. So sue me. That towel and washcloth get laundered infrequently. The bathroom door closed again.

I know better than to be second behind an SHYT hairy blanket for the bathroom. I’m good. I hear personal hygiene noises. Remote repossessed. Lance Watson’s Positive Power is better.

I move my towel to the hamper. The laundromat run will happen later. Time for omelets and home fries, coffee and for the hairy blanket, hand squeezed blood orange juice. Also bagels with lox schmear.

Coffee Is Never “Just Coffee

Freshly showered girl arms just embraced me from behind. No more hairy blanket. Instead, Inger/Kittie now in a camisole and fleece pajama pants, rummaging for coffee mugs and soy milk. Before setting the table Inger sees my FB post about the binary divide between parents and not parents. A flash of annoyance crosses her face before she moves the tablet to my ottoman in the living room and resumes setting the dining table with a tablecloth, utensils, plates and so on. I tend to eat and wash one bowel. I’ll drink out of a 32oz. cup from Wawa. This is way more effort into breakfast than my usual. Kittie, though, seems to enjoy this domestic moment.

Tangent 2: Guys and gals, if you menstruate and don’t have a partner there is a running annoyance you can’t avoid. Guys circle around you like dogs sniffing for a bitch in heat.  They all want to know if they have a shot at you. All the “gender is a social construct, gender is fluid, you can identify as any gender you choose” doesn’t change any of this. Maybe this explains women who dress like guys to fend off the pack and guys who dress in a way that signals they are not wondering about every woman they encounter.

B) Nearly sixty years of socialist/feminist indoctrination has not changed the nature of men. Guys still stare, look for a ring, and maybe try to hit on her. Call it what you will, name it whatever evil root cause you choose, in spite of decades of indoctrination in proper etiquette, some men are still dogs.

Nurture isn’t Always Enough

This annoyance explains for me why “going for coffee” with a woman is never as simple as that. And why there is safety in a relationship for a woman. “Keep Away” rings are a thing, just saying.

Inger just hit me. On the shoulder. Don’t go getting all cops and abuse on me. It’s not like that. We are not a thing, first of all. Second, slow down. Not every touch, every punch on the shoulder is a reason to go down the road of “she put her hands on me, officer.” Inger is a bit feral. She’s proof that being kept in a bubble and prevented from experiencing suffering to the extent that her parents could accomplish ends up being exactly opposite what was intended. Inger has no resiliency.  Duress sends her into orbit.

What Inger wants me to write is that I should not be so stiff. Gender is a social construct. Her Swarthmore professors said so. You can choose to identify yourself however you want. Wear whatever costume you choose. Yeah. So . . . girl, is pregnancy a social construct? Can you be a little pregnant? Tell me those words in hour ten of labor when you are 8cm for the last two hours.

Ok, the core truth to this story is that there was a Cadillac Escalade abandoned in front of my house last summer. It’s the first week of school as I type this. The weather in my zip code still thinks it is summer. I don’t have air-con in my house so I feel every drop of sweat, every degree of heat. Inger hasn’t said anything. Her Stewart Street house is an easy drive out of the heat. But both of us tuck into breakfast while box fans blow hot air around the house.

Loose Whips

What happened to the Escalade is simple: I called the cops, they came, red-tagged the whip, and a couple days later it was gone. That’s not enough for Inger.  There was a suitcase in the back seat. Strewn across the passenger side were the remains of a few meals from Burger King. Inger said she found a finger. I didn’t look.

This is where it gets story worthy. The cops closed the street. A CSI van showed up. Unmarked Chevy Impalas and Crown Victorias filled the available parking in front of my house.

Inger shows me a bloody gauze. Crap. She says it’s from the finger and she knows somebody in the crime lab who owes her a favor. Just what I need. My house as the command center for a civilian investigation into a whip that I just want to go away.

Dirty Dishes

Inger finishes her lox bagel and orange juice. No coffee for her. She takes a Ziploc bag from the bottom drawer and puts the bloody gauze in it. A quick peck from her and a “we are not a thing” hug before she’s out the back door waving, “byeee!” Peace and quiet. Kinda. She cleaned my bathroom. My medicine cabinet got re-organized to make room for cosmetics. This kittie doesn’t seem to want to remain a stray. Woo.

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Pascal’s Wager – Wikipedia

My cousin and I got into a thread about whether God exists. She is a disciple of science and modernism. Pushed hard, she leans toward Freud and Nietzche. It’s all about the ID and the world you can taste and see. I am of a different stripe. My world is absurd. It is full of Cheshire Cats and Jabberwocky. It makes no nevermind to me that my God is absurd. It is better to live as if God does exist and Jesus is who he said he is.

Source: Pascal’s Wager – Wikipedia

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No Pulse, Just a Finger

Charlie Boy Inside

Inger got him arrested. Her time in the Bay Area included a year at Sennin Kai. When she got back to Richmond she started over with Eric at Richmond Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Inger trains because it keeps her sane. All that boomer childhood whim indulgence and self-empowerment was worthless. It filled her with anxiety. On her first night at Sennin Kai a Tai Kwan Do blackbelt questioned one of the instructors whether Aiki Jiu-Jitsu was effective. She didn’t see what happened. She only heard the groans of the Tai Kwan Do dude as he lay on the floor trying to recover. He signed up. Shameless Yoast SEO pander: No pulse, just a finger

So, Charles (Boy) of my previous post about Inger, went to jail. Inger had a quiet year. She rented a place a couple doors down from me. The Stuart Street house? It’s still there. She still has it. It’s too bougie for her, she says. So she splits her time between East 15th Street and Stewart Street. If you ask me, Stuart Street has too many bad memories of Charley Boy.

Escalade, No Pulse, Just a Finger

All’s been well until recently. Inger knocked on my door last Saturday. She’d seen the Cadillac Escalade parked in front of my house for a couple weeks. She thought maybe it was mine. Curiosity drove her to peek inside.

That’s Not Happening

What she saw pushed her that last little bit to my door and an insistent knock, “ALAN! FUCK! ANSWER THE DOOR! There is a finger, a human finger on the back seat of that whip!” I hate answering the door in my PJ’s. She kept pounding and shouting about a finger on the back seat of the Cadillac Escalade in front of my house, “Give me a minute!” I put on some jeans and my old Eagles t-shirt.

Inger was at the front door. Two locks, open it, she blows by me and takes a horse stance next to my couch, “A fucking finger on the back seat of that whip. Oh my fucking God!

Oh yay! My Saturday routine just got disrupted. Never mind couch slugging with PBS on until mid-afternoon. Now I had Inger going on about a finger she saw on the seat of a sketchy looking Cadillac Escalade. Life in the ghetto for a WASP. Woo.

No Pulse, Just a Finger

So . . . it’s Saturday. Priorities. I made coffee, a French omelete and home fries. Inger wasn’t hungry or happy. She couldn’t stop worrying about the finger on the back seat of the Cadillac Escalade. Was it a guy’s finger, girls? How did it get there? Now with breakfast made I called the cops. They got to us in about a half-hour. And . . . closed the street.

Cops leaving East 15th Street, No Pulse, Just a FingerAwesome. My car was parked behind the Subaru. Forget going anywhere for a while. The one time I park in front of my house Inger finds no pulse, just a finger.

Inger doesn’t drink coffee. She found the loose tea I had and made herself a cup of Oolong. Wait?! What?! You pig. Taiwanese tea, asshole. OMG! Racist even.

Talk about awkward. I’ve got a SHYT in my kitchen amped up about some suitcases she found in the Escalade. Inside was powder cocaine, cash, and clothes. The front seat was strewn with bags and wrappers from a late-night drunk food binge. A couple Four Loko empties were on the floor, shotgun spot.

Party Remains

The powder cocaine was in bricks. A couple kilos. By now the cops had tape closing the street at both the Edwards and Gordon ends of the block. A CSI unit showed up. It’s not like TV. They are very methodical and slow. The clothes were early gone-to-the-club casual. Thongs, bras, jeans and oversized t-shirts. Inger didn’t see anything that looked like guy stuff. Except maybe the glimpse of surplus army boots in the way-back.

Inger knew too much. She denied going through the Escalade. She said she only stood outside and took pictures with her phone. Uh huh. In my cab-driving years, I gave rides to thousands of drunks and addicts. Many of them were  Cartel members. It was my job to make snap decisions about the likelihood of a given fare ending with payment and polite goodbyes. By dint of repetition, I got pretty good at it. Inger’s version of the events leading to her hugging a cup of Oolong tea in my kitchen did not add up.

I asked her how much cash she saw, “Not that much. Some benjamins.” Her purse was on the floor next to her. I could see at least one bundle peaking out. Inger’s family has money so it’s possible she’s walking around with 25% of my annual salary in cash. It’s possible. There is an abandoned Escalade in front of my house being scrutinized by criminologists. I’d bet there are more possibilities Inger isn’t ready to confess.

Charlie Boy

I wondered why she would risk pissing off drug dealers by helping herself to a couple bundles of Benjamins. Inger was a Daddy’s girl and her family had money. All she had to do is ask. Yet she’s in my kitchen wearing designer clothes that have the scent of a thrift store. She looks like she hasn’t slept in ages. She smelled of stale beer and sticky sex.

Charles (Boy) had been stalking her. Inger went so far as to get a restraining order. He ignored it. She was in a manic/paranoid mood of late, texting me incessantly that her laptop would power on and alert her to a tweet from someone who seemed to know exactly what she was doing right then. Inger even started taking the battery out at bed-time. No effect. Still, messages came. She could solve this just by replying to Charlie Boy, maybe joining him in Sid Meier’s Civilization for a while.

Inger bought a gun instead. She was against guns but this asshole was getting scary. Let that fucker violate the restraining order. Then Inger wondered out loud of the finger was Charlie’s. That seemed to make her smile.

Exit Out the Back

Inger and I were getting fidgety. We peaked out my back door and discovered that the cops had not closed off the alley. Good. Processing the crime scene was going to be an all-day thing. Let the cops do their job. She and I closed up the house, headed to the alley and made a right turn toward her house. This wasn’t over.

Some Housekeeping

I’ve given up on the popular conversation about Trump. I voted for him so I guess that makes me a racist, Nazi asshole who hates everybody and especially the golden children of the left–LBGTQ, brown people, and women. I am a born-again Christian, so that adds to the depth of my evil. I’m done trying to engage with those who believe with cult fever that God is on their side in this fight for the soul of our democracy.

I’m resigning my seat at the table where the task is to throw rhetorical bombs at the other side. I don’t want to talk about it. There are plenty who are talking about it. I can opt out.

I’ve said my piece on philosophy and religion. I’ve written a statement of essentials in Nutcracker Ushers. There are 277 published posts on this blog covering current events, religion, politics, and philosophy. At an average of 1500 words each, there are 416,000 ways to be pissed off at me for something I said. I think that’s enough.

I’m more interested in Inger and the other characters I’ve created in this space. So, for now, I’m going to concentrate on a serialized novel telling this story: what happened to that finger, the cocaine and clothes in that Escalade. There was no pulse, just a finger.

 

 

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Five Stars

Dotty Postage

You won’t get the reference unless you are old enough to remember Herb Caen. No worries. I’ve been trying since early April to find more to say about five stars. I got 600 words or so. So . . . like Herb I’m just going to be adhd about it and mash together a few shorter ideas into this post.

Working With a Brahmin Five Stars

First, an apology. It’s been a couple months since I posted anything in this space. I pay my bills with a job called Deskside Support. What that means in practice is that I get work because something is fucked up. Most of the fuckups are things that can be fixed in forty hours and the stakeholders are our clients. These last two months have been ass-puckering for my bosses because they got caught out covering for a couple coworkers who had patronage jobs.

I’m not used to working alongside someone who has a job because he has attributes that fit the current fashunabull identities. Nor am I used to someone who is effectively tenured because they fall into the right adjectives and are friends with someone important enough to protect them from layoffs. Until this job. Holy crap. It hasn’t happened yet. But, I swear, these two swinging dicks could be caught fucking each other on a table in the cafeteria and nothing would come of it.

I’ve had two months of late nights at work dealing with the fallout of these two princes. Self care things like working out and cooking for myself so I don’t eat crap have been ignored. Too many nights I get home, change into pajamas, and crawl under the covers to wait for dawn. I’m in a cafe writing tonight because if I don’t I’ll do something self-destructive. So . . . moving on.

Five Stars

Five Stars is a thing. The thing is, it’s gotten silly. Every place that has a presence on Yelp wants to get a five-star rating from you. So many that a five-star rating has become stupid.

I stay at the Paradise Hotel in the Valley. I have a room over the Last Chance Saloon. The Paradise Hotel has a five-star rating from TripAdvisor. We are a spring break destination because of Saito-San. Those five stars come from the cheap well-drink prices, generous happy hour and indifferent attitude of Saito-San towards bacchanal.

Pro-Tip: If you are married, married with children, this is not the hotel for you. It is a dump. The maids clean every few days. You can’t tell. The sheets are threadbare. The rooms that don’t have bedbugs stink of pesticide. Don’t drink the water. The most reliable toilet is the outhouse in the alley. You get the idea.

Not Your Paradise Hotel

The Paradise Hotel’s 5-Star Rating is a joke. The Valley is a shit-show. Saito-San has had a blood feud with the cartels for a decade. Waking up to a body in the street is a regular occurrence. You can find feces along the curbs near the hotel. The alley beside the hotel stinks of piss, shit, and puke.  Behind Saito-San’s gas station is an outhouse littered with used needles. It’s not safe here. People get hurt.

So . . . what’s up with that 5-Star rating? We are a spring break destination. People come here to get drunk and screw. One month out of the year we grow from a few hundred regulars to nearly ten-thousand. For that month we are a vibrant, pulsating mass of partying youth. Gringo prices for a room at the Paradise will run you 400 pesos a night off-season. During spring break it will be at least 1500 pesos per night. We charge the parents $250/night for room and board. Liquor is extra. For your 1500 pesos, though, we keep the Last Chance Saloon open. The hotel buffet is open 24/7. Good stuff.

We are also a 5-star missional tourism destination. We put on quite a show for the white-monkeys who show up in their chartered buses from churches like the New Pentecostal Deliverance Evangelical Bible Outreach Center. They build houses, churches, and wells we tear down after they leave. They feed the starving children. We don’t have to buy toiletries, socks or underwear. And certain of their leadership has a running tab at the Last Chance Saloon.

A Dollar a Day

Somebody asked me how the town makes money. Well . . . when you are a town that does fine on pesos it doesn’t take much to keep the lights on. When the white monkeys go home we go back to farming and barter. Off-season the regulars pretty much know each other and what everyone needs. We do for each other.

You can easily live on a couple dollars a day if you don’t try to live like a white monkey. You can live even cheaper if you can maintain a garden and some chickens. What you can’t do is keep your white monkey life. For that, we have the Paradise Hotel and we charge for that.

So, to answer the question, we earn enough over spring break to carry us through the year. We also do nicely with the missional tourism. There are also some things that Saito-san does to help manage money for the cartels. But the big thing is the stark contrast between a livable income on pesos and a similar livable income on dollars if you are a gringo. So, that’s a thing.

✤ ✤ ✤

One last thing. We seem to have settled on male attributes as normal and acceptable while reserving femininity for taboo. A woman can wear men’s clothes and be butch and not draw scolding eyes. She can wear pretty much anything she wants and it’ll be ok. A guy, though, still can’t dress in drag without attracting gossip and uncomfortable stares.

There is also this, that in Mecca, to be with the fashunabull crowd, you have to signal inclusion in some way. Guys have to be brown skinned or a bit fem or both to be accepted. It’s bad if you are a cis-hetero male WASP. That bunch, the ones that drive Subaru’s with four doors and live in cul-de-sacs with detached homes–those guys are on their face evil. This explains the pink golf shirts of some.

I’m friends someone who lives in the mecca of PUDFARB. Berkeley is the spiritual capital of PUDFARB. San Jose is its financial center. The real power of PUDFARB is in the South Bay where she lives. A thread of our conversation is gender identity. What defines a man? What defines a woman? Is it the costume? Mayhaps visible genitalia like dicks or boobs? Are surgery and cosplay enough? What of those who say they can declare a gender identity regardless of the body they reside in?

IRL my friend looks like a Scottish farm-girl who could wrestle a bull and win. A lot of what is fun to her falls into the realm of guy stuff. She’s an accomplished yacht captain and a mucho multi-rated GA pilot.

♂ ⚥ ♀

So, she’s not very girly. But she is a girl, no question. So, what defines a woman? Doing woman things—house-frau, Mary and Mary and such? The clothes? It’s not hard to walk around SJW Mecca and see a person with a beard and Adam’s apple wearing heels, stockings, a short skirt, a silk blouse and a bra. Guy or girl? More frequent is a person who clearly has hips and boobs and no Adam’s apple but is wearing a button-down Oxford, boyfriend jeans, and Converse All-Stars. Girl or guy?

I’ll give you my answer: a woman was born with the potential to make babies. She had a womb at birth. Whether she keeps it or uses it to make babies isn’t material to my definition. Conversely,  a guy is born with the potential to get a girl pregnant. The central difference for me is children.

I really don’t care who you marry. I really don’t give a shit whether you yourself have a sausage or an oyster between your legs, whether you were born with a body that might one day nurse a baby or not and who you choose to partner with. Partner with the one you love, gender identity shouldn’t enter into it.

Are You Now or Do You Plan to be a Parent?

That said, what I do care about is this: are you going to have kids? No? Go away. Do you. Just . . . please don’t shove your life in my face and demand that I love your chosen path.

And . . . please find a spiritual life of some sort. The second thing I care about is evil. If your chosen lifestyle includes darkness that bleeds into the community around you then please repent. Do what you have to do to get spiritually healthy. I happen to be Christian and believe it is the best way. The topic of ways is vast. Find a spiritual way and stick to it.

So, for me, the binary divide is between those who were born with the potential to carry a child and those who were born with the potential to initiate a pregnancy. If you were born with a uterus you are a woman. If you were born with a dick you are a dude. All the rest of it is foolishness.

✤ ✤ ✤

There was a news story this morning about the Supreme Court deciding that Ohio can purge its voter registration rolls of people who have not voted in a while and also have not responded to attempts to contact them.

This is horrendous. How are dead people supposed to vote if Ohio just deems them illegible to vote? How dare they! It’s outrageous. Dead people have rights too. Dead people matter!

What do you mean dead people can’t vote?! Who is going to vote for reasonable leaders who will do right by the people? Somebody has to make sure the welfare checks get mailed and our grandparents can still buy cat food. I mean, seriously.

Last, I find it curious that politicians who campaign on populism, on being a champion for the people, once elected, turn out to be vicious imperialists. There is a class of elites in this country who will do anything to protect their caste. Letting dead people vote is just a piece of it.

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Nutcracker Ushers

I have to get something off my chest. I met some nutcracker ushers the last time I was in the valley. One particular Baptist Church likes it when I usher while they are here. I’m the token backsliding gringo who is a reason to pray for protection. Ushering for them is a double bonus. They get to signal their hospitality to odd people while trying again to convince me that a blue suit is a better look for me.

That’s one piece. The next bit is that I’m not a nutcracker usher.  These Baptists are a Sunday best sort of church. Their ushers stand at their assigned door like nutcrackers. You approach their door, they open it to let you in, maybe hand you a bulletin and then let it close. Lord almighty if you speak to them. Never do that.

Nutcracker Usher

Though, funny thing. If a friend approaches their door, whole other thing. It’s smiles and chatty and they spend a minute catching up. I’m a damned Yankee. I walk toward a manned door and it’s like I am a leper. They open the door arms stick straight, keeping their distance from me.

  • My first sin is that I had my hands in my pockets just after greeting someone. Really? That’s the thing that makes me a bad usher? Let’s not stop with my hands. Most of the time I am in sandals, beach shorts, and a tank top. I have a closet full of Hawaiian pattern shirts. I am the epitome of boomer gringo on holiday.
  • B) Some more. I tend to have over the ear Bluetooth headphones around my neck. You can hear Jimmy Buffet leaking out of them.
  • I also kept picking up church bulletins from the careful piles for each nutcracker. Instead of sticking to the rules and only handing out from an assigned pile I took them from whichever pile was nearest. For that I am apostate. I am a bad usher needing to be scolded.
  • Still not done. I made the entire foyer of the church my turf. I greeted whoever entered, through whichever door. The nutcracker ushers stood mouths agape. This is not how it is done.

You Are Doing It Wrong

You are right. It is now how it is done. Ushers with some boogie and charm don’t fit the stiff blue suits that guard the doors to the chapel. I mean, I look like I am dancing while I flit from person to person greeting them and ensuring they are welcomed.

Let’s repeat something. Jesus is absurd. Christ chased the money changers with a whip. He broke bread with prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath. He said that the meek and poor in spirit are blessed. That bastard Nazarene carpenter told a wealthy man it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for that man to enter heaven.

Keep that in mind as I say that this country is in an imperialist/legalist mood. The answer to most problems is more and stricter law. Lately, London’s mayor has decided that the answer to a rise in murder by knife is to ban knives. He forgot about acid.

Baptism’s dark side is similarly stiff and authoritarian. Many Baptists cannot hear the loving voice of Christ over the shouting they internalize–they are not good enough, every exhale is a backslide, every inhale another ingestion of worldly decadence. The answer is to insist that people must know Jesus because that would solve it.

Nutcracker Ushers in the Valley

Those nutcracker ushers are not in the Valley to show us the Mercy of Mother Mary. They are here to save us from the depravity they see all around them. They see us and there is too much of the world in us. Yep. We just toast them and tell the band to crank it up.

Jesus came to fulfill the law. The whole miracle is wrapped up in how he fulfilled the law. Hillel’s summary of the Torah, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah.” Christ flipped the script, Mat 7:12So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” All this bickering over things like whether it is proper for an usher to have his hands in his pockets is a trifle needing charity. Yet there are Baptists who can spend hours arguing over this and whether intinction is proper.

Meldenius, “Necessariis unitas, quae necessaria libertatis et caritatis cetera.” I get annoyed at those who would judge my fielty to Christ by my manner of dress, the placement of my hands, and the music leaking out of my headphones. It’s not very far from that to judging someone by bloodline or skin color. I have a hard time believing my stated sin of having my hands in my pockets is a necessary concern requiring unity. But . . . I’m Presbyterian and we decided to punt when challenged on whether fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman is a requirement for our clergy, so there you go.

Let’s Eat Hummus and Revolution

We are a Middle Eastern religion born out of a rebellion against the church and Rome. Our truest nature is that of malcontents. We are odd. Once we stop being outliers we dim the lamp of the Holy Spirit. Ours is a traditional way of life with rules that are essential and thus, require unity. I wonder, though, if the man who praised a woman for pouring nard on him and turned water into wine would obsess over the position of the hands on an usher.

As to fundementalism, I like what Shane Claiborne said. Since we are dissident Jews our fundamentals ought to be Arab and Israeli. I am amused at the thought of a rabbi giving a homily in a ‘merican church. It would be an uncomfortable few hours for the nutcracker ushers.

Here are some of my essentials: I find myself hungering for service to everyone regardless of their rung on Jacob’s Ladder. I am alive because of God’s Amazing Grace. It is out of gratitude for His grace that I keep saying we should lead with grace. Jesus said a lot in the short time he was here. Some of my favorites are the Beatitudes, Acts Chapter 2 and Romans 12.

I repeated the Meldenius quote above. Asked to boil my essentials down to a paragraph I would say we are to love our enemies and neighbors as ourselves, treat others as we wish to be treated, diligently seek to perform small acts of kindness with great love, pray, worship, tithe, and read scripture.

The Good Fight

If there is anything that is characteristic of us it is this: we never stopped arguing about what we believe.  It is why I love Meldenius’ words. We all have to pick our essentials that are not up for debate. After that the rest is fungible.

I know the nutcracker usher who chided me for having my hands in my pockets. His faith is fluid. He fights that first step, admitting we have a problem we are powerless against. Like many, when sober he is brilliant. His inner child became an overachiever because that way his parents would be safer. There is safety in law for him. If there were a law and we would comply it would be so much better.

So he comes to the valley to tilt at our absurdities. We need to come correct so he can be ok. If we knew Jesus and all that. I suppose Fr. Thomas doesn’t know Jesus. The nutcracker usher has been to confession. He found it troubling and attractive.

I’ve crossed paths with him at the cathedral. He’s been at the club when I walk through to my flat upstairs. I think I get where the thing about my hands comes from. It’s easier to fight for kings and law to solve our problems. Christ is tough. His way is absurd. Rather than lift a sword he died and lived. Bickering over hands buried in pockets is a lot safer.

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Father Thomas

Father Thomas starts on the Yucatan Peninsula. Yah, yah, I read Koontz’ Odd Thomas novels. Literary coinkidink. Thomas Chan was born to Mayan parents in the Hospital General in 1983. He is average height and build for the Mestizaje. Tommy was born with a cleft palate that explains two things: falla exógena para prosperar and a nagging suspicion that he is a symptom of generations deep curse on his parents.

It is fashionable to tag a fate as immutable and thus, Fr. Thomas ought to be pitiable. He also ought not to improve his position beyond the photo of him at age 3 staring up at a gringo photographer. The cleft palate repair was remarkably good. He was adopted by an American family when he was four. Bit by bit, all of the medical problems he had at adoption were treated and cured. He was a favored child in his Southern Baptist Church. One thing I’ve learned from Fr. Thomas is that priests don’t talk about their studies unless pressed. Protestants are in love with credentials. We would use a Doctor of Divinity as a marker of authority. Priests sing the Psalms end to end every week. Fr. Thomas, like his church, has that quiet authority that comes from a history that goes back to the cross.

Poor Father Thomas

More than a few missionaries have arrived in the village sure that they can bring us to Cheeezus and a first world paradise. They think he is one of the villagers needing Cheezus. Then the missionaries ask Father Thomas if he is saved and the fun starts.

Here is the thing. Some of this first world largess makes a mess of things in the third world. Missionary tourists have expectations of us. The village in our valley is small. No traffic lights, one gas station, the club where I stay when I am there, and a smattering of squatters huts. When missionaries show up to build a church it’s a huge deal. It costs us a lot. As much as the missionaries bring they eat us out of house and home. Then they build a church that we can’t keep open because there is no way to pay for the water, sewer, heat, and electricity for it. The last group’s church is a depot for the village’s trash.

Which explains why Fr. Thomas isn’t at the head of the line to greet another group of Evangelicals who think we need a church. He leaves that to Saito-san. Saito-san gets saved every week in the summer by one more group of missional tourists. It’s something to see. Saito-san does a great job getting healed by the spirit.

The Only Correct Bible is the King James

One adamant missionary from a beautiful non-denominational mega-church asked Fr. Thomas if he was saved, citing John 3:16. “Si. ‘Porque tanto amó Dios al mundo que dio a su Hijo unigénito, para que todo el que cree en él no se pierda, sino que tenga vida eterna‘. ¿Recuerdas 1 Corintios 13: 4: El amor es paciente, es bondadoso. El amor no es envidioso ni jactancioso ni orgulloso. No se comporta con rudeza, no es egoísta, no se enoja fácilmente, no guarda rencor. El amor no se deleita en la maldad, sino que se regocija con la verdad. Todo lo disculpa, todo lo cree, todo lo espera, todo lo soporta‘?“, asked Fr. Thomas.

The adamant missionary knew Leviticus by heart. He’d heard Matthew 28:19 as an accusation that he not done enough. Fr. Thomas got accused of being evil. To which Fr. Thomas agreed. He is evil to those whose literary eyes never drift from the KJV and whose soul cowers at the slightest whiff of dissonance as a sure sign of the devil.

The next day that missionary boy spent the day in the cathedral learning about the stations of the cross. The boy who would save us began to learn that his small life in Christ obsessed with coming correct was a tiny lamp nearly out of oil. The light of Christ given off by the whole church was brilliant. He who would save us began learning how much he didn’t know about Jesus. It shook him.

 

The Other Odd Thomas

Fr. Thomas is odd. He left the valley and learned to live in the light. The blood of the cross transfused his valley water. He hurt as he surrendered to the blood of the lamb. The pilgrimage out of the valley started with Baptist missionaries who adopted him.

Tommy’s gringo parents flipped through a couple different New Age utopian communities a year. They hungered for simple living and self-reliance. Mayhaps not the fault of the communities they chose, but of those Eros was king of the gods. They came to Cheezus in a small town, Southern Baptist Church with a preacher who was sure every day was the day of rapture.

Tommy ran away at age 13 to ricochette from jail to church to street to the beaches of Vietnam to Antifa to a bar in Merida seeking purpose and vision or at least something to numb the chronic angst. He only knew that he did not want the gestalt bestowed on him by his barely present adoptive parents.

Weaponized Feel

One of the deep lessons he learned is that feelings were weapons. He had to be perfect for his parents because a backslide would devolve into hours of cray-cray prayer where even asking for water was a sign of the devil. So, Tommy became an overachiever. The devil can be incredibly motivating while he eats your soul.

The Baptists have a trope they ache for. The one where someone in the pews is overcome with spirit and makes a public prayer of acceptance. It doesn’t always happen that way. Jesus is, if anything, an absurd, thick-necked and stubborn revolutionary. It would be out of character for him to stick to a Baptist trope in every case.

I argued with God for decades. He won. For a while I needed my questions answered. Over time, Christ’s love and mercy leaked into my valley water and turned it into wine. For the last decade, I have been slowly letting Jesus fill me with the blood of the cross. It hurts much of the time. Things that are not of the cross die. I won’t have it any other way.

Right Between the Knockers

Tommy’s altar call happened at station Twelve of the Cross. The Southern Baptism of his adoptive parents just never felt right. It could not be that the only way to view the world was as a table offering souls to eat. Death had to have a meaning beyond the threatened fire and damnation burned into him if he did not come correct. He was in Merida during the Festival of the Dead, staying with a Mayan family as an exchange student, and went to a cathedral out of curiosity. There was a monk in a pew near the Twelfth Station.

My love of Christ has been a slow surrender. Tommy’s turn came in a nervous breakdown. One moment he was taking selfies of with the icon of Christ’s death and the next he was in on a bed in the priory. Sometimes Jesus kicks you in the nuts. Tommy became Fr. Thomas after such a kick.

Tommy returned to the US hungry for the body of Christ. His new love of Catholicism and taco de pescado got him shunned by his adoptive parents. He could not go home again so he made is way back to Merida and the twelfth station. It began as a novice. The journey continues as Fr. Thomas serves as clergy for the valley. We keep him busy.

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