I'm sort'a bashful to admit it, but this story is truer than factual. But I was, indeed, there, and all I can do is report the reality. I can also reveal my own past prejudices, as well as pranks. A thousand pardons to any offended by my observations and previous inclinations.
One Bright & Sunny Day © Solomon
Sunday, Three PM, August 23, 1989. Time to rise and face new challenges, I feel like I spent last night having my cranium scraped out with a screwdriver. I've slept in my jeans. My fingertips itch as I fumble through the pockets, searching for my wallet. How much money I've spent, how little I have left, will yield important clues to the extent and nature of last evening's besotted revelry.
In the pockets, I find a spindled, soggy, near empty pack of Newports. I have my keys and my wristwatch, band snapped and face smashed with hands at 2:13. I have a bar napkin from the Star Dust Hotel & Lounge where "Every Hour is Happy Hour".
On the napkin resides the form of a runny, ink blue amoeba, like a Rorschack for the memory impaired. It seems to say Lenore S... and the number is totally illegible. 7-8- something or 4-3 or 9-8 and something, something. I can't recall a face to match the moniker, although her name has an intriguing ring to it.
I fumble through my shirt, stumble to find my jacket on the living room couch. Rifling through it, I first discover my jacks, four marbles, one a cat's eye, seventeen cents, all in pennies, a spool of kite string, and my plastic spider. Then I find my wallet. It contains twenty-three bucks and an ATM receipt indicating that I'd withdrawn One-Hundred and Fifty bucks, last evening.
"I must have had a ball." It starts coming back to me: the heavy drinking, marijuana, the simultaneously tranquilizing yet stimulating reality-sheen of psylocibin many-colored mind-gloss all over everything. I had stalked from bar to bar in search of convivial conversation. Eventually I found a friendly and, thank heavens, go nowhere encounter with an ex-stripper. She claimed her name was Lenore, late of Washington D.C. Many shots of Tequila underscored extravagant tales of trysts with the likes of Louis Farakan, Malcolm X and Bobby Kennedy. "Ah, that was in my younger days. The Sixties was such a time! I almost slept with Martin Luther King, but then he was killed... those dirty rotten bastards..." her voice trailed into faint muttering.
Ah, but no time to dwell on the past. It's time to make breakfast and so, off to the kitchen I go, I go! Smack some eggs on the edge of a pan and scramble them around with pepper, onion, carrots, cheese and a couple of 'shrooms from the freezer. Got'ta have those vitamins and proteins. Plenty of orange juice to replace lost fluids. Lots of salt in the eggs for electrolytes; the 'shrooms to activate badly depleted neuro- chemicals. More fluids. Bottled water, apple cider, more water and coffee. More O.J. with the eggs. Skip the toast; carbohydrates will just slow things down.
After breakfast, I take half an hour on the mind-massager, the custom built MFX.01, brain-wave synchro. Balm of hurtin' minds. New eyes for the bleary. I designed it myself!
Back in action, before I even get to the bottom of my third cup of Joe, the mind altering alkaloids start kickin' in. Time to bathe and scrape the green fur off of my teeth. It's gonna be a great day!
Out of the door and down on the streets; downtown Golden City. The late Sunday afternoon traffic, hunkered down, glaring, glow-eyed machines prowling the byways in automotive smatters and small swarms humming at stop lights. As I walk further down toward Main Street, it strikes me that something odd is happening here.
There are too many people out and about. Too many cars full of families; cookey-cutter stamped sedans and wagons trans- porting little cookey-cutter stamped individuals. Not your usual urban variety rust-buckets blasting metal, rap or salsa from their duct-tape upholstered interiors.
There are strangers to these parts on the streets tonight. Weird people, dressed like Canadians, garbed in K-mart all-polyesters. The men's hair is uniformly slathered with gooey kid stuff. The womenfolk wear theirs lacquered in homage to a frozen sense of fashion. They wander in a thickening drove from the direction of the Civic Center. Man, woman and child, all sport large lapel buttons proudly proclaiming: "Hello! My Name is __________. A Warm Welcome to Jehovahthon 1989!!!"
It's a Jesus freak convention. "Oh, great! A bunch of true believers; thousands of 'em." I plunge straight ahead into the achingly sincere, antisepticized heart of this human throng.
What a crew; all of a type. The women, excluding those still in toddler's swaddling, are primly gussied up and come in just two basic types: stonefaced and dour, or smiling and apparently vacant. The men, however, bear universally dispeptic expressions. It has been a grueling and costly journey in the old blue Chevy Caprice, down from the hills. The kids chatter and fight, Mommy prattles on about Pauline's baby shower and gettin' over to the mall in Holyoke on Tuesday. "They're having a sale on towels and bedding at Sear's...".
As they search for a parking place, the seasonable warmth causes Dad's neck to enlarge greatly against the itching collar of his four year-old rayon shirt. His eyeballs hurt. There's a buzzing in his ears. He's quietly stewing in his own sweat.Once parked and inside the refrigerated bowels of the arena, he is harangued for some three hours by a parade of overdressed gentlemen and church-going ladies bearing witness for Christ and asking for money. The main act is a big, blonde fellow who, Dad notices, talks suspiciously like a Negro. He has a hairstyle like Elvis. He runs all around the huge stage in long, athletic strides, bellowing into the mike in his left hand, quoting from the bible in his right. He stops occasionally at the podium only long enough to put the mike in its holder, bash his fists on the bible and ask for more money. He gulps down some water, or whatever, smooths his hair and then he's off once again at a gallop. This crap continues just long enough to turn Dad's brain into mush and his wallet into a desert. By the final fade to black on Jehovathon '89, Mom is so happy that she's crying. The kids are asleep.
In the middle of the plaza leading from the doors to the arena, a fellow with blue plastic hair, dressed in a big, blue plastic suit, stands on a Samsonite suitcase. In his large hands, he clutches wads of pamphlets, gesticulating wildly, hurtling praise to Heaven and loathing on Satan's minion. He is widely ignored by the faithful. He has nothing to offer that they have not heard before.
As I stand on the corner, taking it all in, a crowd gathers waiting for the walk light. A young boy immediately to my right sneezes. Following my first instinct, I say "God bless you, child". Only then do I politely enquire, "Say, has your mommy had you tested for any nasty diseases, lately?". He does not respond, but cleaves close to the pink, pleated skirt of his mother, who looks upon me with a air of severe disgust.
I can stand and wither at her caustic gaze, or charge ahead. I seize the moment. The light has not changed. The intersection is full of cars crawling forward out of the civic center parking lot. Densely congested automotive chaos; the perfect setting for a test of Christian ethics. I leap into the street between the bumpers of two moving vehicles. Will they kill me and roll right over my bones? Or will Dad slam on the brakes, risking rear-end collision with the Dad and Mom and four kids in the car behind him? How will they measure up in the face of the Random Element ?
Yes, surely, my trust is well placed. Dad #1 does stop and so does Dad #2 and #3 behind him, #4, and so forth. Some minor folding of sheetmetal and cracking of plastic happens, but nobody's hurt. That is, except for the kid with Dad #3, who has a lollipop jammed into the back of his throat.
Mom manages to dislodge the lollipop from Johnny's glottis as Eddy, Frank and little Lucy shriek with horror and fascination at their brother's newfound ability to turn his face as purple as a grape. Meanwhile some sharp invective and blame laying takes place among the assorted Dads. A cop on the corner, who's job it is to sort out these kinds of little misunderstandings between civilized Christians, steps into the scene. He's right on cue, as I reach the shore on the other side and vanish into the human underbrush. Remembering Lot's wife, I don't look back.
On this corner of State and Main, I instantly spot a remarkable looking fellow, a stringbean of a man in a pistachio green leisure suit, yellow shirt and brown wingtip shoes. He's got a bible in his right hand and reams of pamphlets gorging every pocket. I see him. He sees me. A new game is afoot.
"Excuse me, Brother! Have you heard the word of the Lord today?", he pitches as he steps directly in my path. I stop and rejoin without hesitation: "I bet'cha I'm gonna hear it now". Snappy, upbeat but mildly aggressive is the proper tone to employ when engaging religious nitwits in repartee.
"Well, tell me", he continues as though by program, "do you believe that there's hope for mankind?".
Hah! I have the answer to that one. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. "Oh, it's a good thing you found me, Bub, 'cuz I've got the answer to your fears and hopes. I'm the one that you've been lookin' for. I'm the one!" My right arm coils like a serpent about his shoulders.
"Huh? You, uh,..."
"Listen, the way I see it, the way it is, is this. Now, we got plenty of room for hope, alright, but hope only takes you so far." I poke two fingers into his lapel button. "What we gotta have here is some action! We gotta open our eyes, see the way it is, see that we gotta all pull together, understand that we live every moment in the face of God, that God is in Everything, that every moment is the moment of eternal judgment and truth. We gotta love and work and be righteous if we're gonna pull through these hard times and arrive where we began, in the Kingdom of God! Do you see?"
No, what he sees is an opportunity to interrupt this ranting, mystical nut that's ruining his day, and steer the conversation back to the matter at hand, which must be giving away those pamphlets and getting my money… which I don't have. He flips open the bible to one of several marked pages. "And, uh, how do you come to know this, Brother?"
"I ate a bunch of mushrooms for breakfast."
"Huh?" This program is not working out. There's nothing in the Book about mushrooms. Dyeing gods, human gods, false gods, snakes, apples, burning bushes, gold, prostitutes, kings and bastard sons... but no mushrooms.
"Say, I gotta be goin'. My partners on the Mothership are waiting to beam me up.I'll be seeing you in a better world. Now, don't you be late!"
And so, I'm off, still, despite my very worst intentions, trying to be helpful.