Saturday, November 22, 2008

PART 2: The potty monsters win

with a totally unrelated updated below. you are welcome.

The Charismatic Catholic prayer meeting we attended was socially divided along a polite, faint, yet very real line. The organizers were on the main thoughtful and spiritual people, most having attended parochial school all the way through college. The lunatic fringe were mainly working class, high school drop-outs, and were tolerated at arms' length. Never the twain did meet... except to act like a bunch of Fruit Loops in a rented hall three times a week. Yes, we were all brothers and sisters in the Lord...and we were all very careful where we sat during Mass so that when called upon to deliver the sign of peace we wouldn't end up hugging anyone icky.

Bambi the high-functioning schizophrenic had been taken up as a cause by the groups' organisers. And I have to say that they did themselves proud. In short order they found her a clean, safe place to live, bought her a bus pass and put her in touch with a social worker and Catholic Community Services. It was pretty clear from the start that this womans' problem was more a matter of failing to take her medication regularly than any 'spiritual darkness'.

Bambi's parents were quietly contacted. I felt really bad for these people. The way the laws ran at the time, if a person was over 18 and not presenting a clear danger to themselves or others, they could go run around and be nutty until they fell off a bridge trying to fly.

Bambi's family recounted the problems they'd had in dealing with this woman over the years and how people in her condition regularly slip between the cracks of society, and thanked us for caring and for doing what we had.

This move was viewed with horror by the Lunatic Fringe. They saw it as a terrible violation of Bambi's trust. After all, her father was rich and powerful and she was in hiding because her family was trying to have her committed and had poisoned her and the Mafia was trying to find her because her ex-husband had blah blah blah etc etc etc...and to top it all off there were demons in her apartment!

Bambi, meanwhile, was feeding off the attention of the group in general and the Lunatic Fringe in particular. The Fringe bought into her delusions hook, line and sinker. Per their literal interpretation of Scripture, the things that were supposedly happening to Bambi were concrete proof and vindication of the 'Fundamental Christianity' that they practiced. With the backup of these people and their magical explanations for what was going on Bambi soon felt 'lead by the Lord' to 'refute her medications' and 'claim a healing'... and that's exactly what she did.

That is why Bambi never did succeed in chasing Satan out of her bathroom.

A number of exorcisms were performed -but she claimed that the demons kept returning stronger. Then they started speaking to her. Writing messages on her walls that only she could see. Finally she started bugging the owner, causing scenes, demanding that as a Christian it was his duty to remove the demon-infested, Island-themed tub surround so she could shower without worrying about Satanic Tiki idols tickling her crack.

The place had been completely and expensively remodeled before she'd moved in (and that aside from the fact that it was a ridiculous demand anyway) so naturally the owner refused. Then the lunatic fringe took up the banner and started pleading on her behalf and doing 'prayer battle' against him*. He still refused. Which was the beginning of the end.

This issue actually split the group. It boiled down to this: Either you believed that this woman was desperately in need of Thorazine, or you were on "Gods' side" and believed that the fucking bathroom wallpaper was possessed.

What was truly sad was that while Bambi was rapidly losing the last of her marbles, both sides were wasting time agonizing over this issue.

Here's why:

These were Fundamentalists. As Fundamentalists, then, a 'secular, scientific' explanation for any given phenomena was by it's very nature wrong-factually and morally. It was, in fact, even sinful to entertain such explanations. Born again, Fundamentalist Christians utterly refuted the 'false religion' of Science. They believed in the literal existence of demons, angels, possession, miracles, exorcism, speaking in tongues, healing and all the rest of it because it was in the Bible, and the Bible was the revealed word of God! Period! So the explanation that best tallied up with what was in the Bible was, had to be, and could not be other than the right one. Therefore, if you took the Bible literally in this case, a person was not schizophrenic. That's not in the Bible, consequently it is a lie. However a person could be possessed by demons. And how do they take care of persons possessed by demons in the Bible? You prayed over them, rebuked Satan, and the demons were cast out.

But if that didn't work?

...Yeah. They don't cover that one in the Bible.

It all ended in a pathetic mess. The lunatic fringe moved en masse to weirder (MUCH weirder) pastures, taking their checkbooks with them. The remaining members disbanded when they lost the use of the hall due to lack of funds. Funds provided in large part by my mother, turns out.

Bambi stopped paying rent. Finally she had to be evicted after she'd almost burnt the building down leaving lit cigarettes all over the floor. She eventually went back to living on the street.

I met up with her a couple of years later, though.

Guess where?

Church of Scientology.

* what this amounted to was meeting in Bambi's apartment across the wall from the owner, or standing on his front stoop, or sitting in his driveway in their cars holding hands and praying 'at' him, loudly, that he would 'do the right thing and follow the path of righteousness', calling each other up and holding prayer meetings via conference call, bringing it up in a disruptive and confrontation manner during prayer meetings...yup. It was a classy AND adult situation.

**I am not being flippant and I am not making this up... this is honestly what they believed and how they believed.

You can take that line of thinking as far afield as you like, too, and it still applies. Modern medicine is evil, electricity is a lie, Buddhists worship Satan, fossils aren't real; they were created by Satan to deceive the faithful.
Now, that's far, far to the right...and also far, far from being as extreme as I've been exposed to. Think of it as 'middle of the road' far right.
That is Christian fundamentalism.
Welcome to America.

Everyone here needs to go here and listen to this:

Have you seen the new trailer for the XBOX game 'Call to Arms: World at War' and wondered what the fuck that awesome goddamn song was? Its this guy-Blues Saraceno. I am a fan for LIFE.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rerun: Bambi vs. the Potty Monsters, part UN

All right. THIS is the one that SurlyGirl requested. And what SurlyGirl wants, SurlyGirl gets! Because she WILL shank you with her rattail comb, yo.

...oh. and before anyone asks, it's true. every sorry word.

My mother found Jesus the way a Peterbilt truck finds a raccoon on the highway-sudden, hard and messy. At first it was a positive thing...for a short (and rather confusing) time, she went from being God's miserable hemorrhoid to being Jesus ' little sunbeam. Was this my mother? Smiling?
Anyway, for a variety of reasons I may go into at another time, I found myself an unwilling participant in what rapidly became my mothers religious mania, going to what were termed 'Charismatic Catholic' , Born-Again style prayer meetings three evenings a week.

Lemme digress a bit. Catholicism in white, working-class America isn't remotely ecstatic. Catholicism in white, working-class America is in fact about as exciting as attending a talk at the public library about Gypsy moth infestation, except with more kneeling and a light snack towards the end.

Understandably, then, Catholics did not do the charisms, or 'ecstatic religiosity' very well. These prayer meetings tended to be rather shy and restrained things until the very, very end, when people got that 'now or never' feeling and suddenly went belly-flopping awkwardly into the deep end. It was essentially two hours of quiet prayer with upraised hands followed by a half-hour of crying, speaking in tongues, falling, twitching, and singing loud songs with accompanying gestures while hopping up and down.
Yes, really. Barney the Dinosaur meets our Lord Jesus Christ.

Still, I honestly think the greater part of the people in attendance were sincere, if misguided. Unfortunately my mother, being who she was, got drawn into the lunatic fringe.
Eventually she was running buddies with this unbelievably odd bunch of Jesus-groupies. All of them were garden-variety unfulfilled Catholic women...morbidly obese 50-year-old virgins, glum married lesbians in brick-wall denial with six kids , borderline (and not-so-borderline) psychotics, rage junkies, low-norms who smelled like pee and beat-down throw pillows, mostly. All of them could have been case studies in a book called 'Women You Should Never, Ever Be Like When You Grow Up'.
And I took note, yo.

One evening there was a new member in attendance, a thin, trembling fawn of a woman draped in scarves and ethnic fabrics, like an aging ballet dancer with a thyroid problem. Her buggy eyeballs never stopped scanning the room. She smoked with a strange metronomic regularity, sipping at the filter and blowing steadily until the cigarette was one long ash drooping gracefully down over her red bony knuckles. She sat at the edge of the group drawn up into a knobby heap on the metal folding chair .

The Fringies were instantly enthralled. The poor thing, let's go be friendly!
Poor thing indeed.
Soon she was in the middle of a circle of chairs filled with a whole bunch of terribly friendly, sympathetic women listening raptly to her 'testimony'.

This stuff was usually pretty gross, so I went outside and lit a smoke.*

I was joined by one of my moms' friends a short while later. "You'll never believe what happened to this poor woman," she said.
She was right.

According to 'Bambi', she'd grown up in a wealthy family, her father was a very well-known public figure who she was afraid to name, all of them were against her and they wanted her to stay married to a man who was beating her. They had been drugging her for years and had finally poisoned her with a mysterious substance in an attempt to 'keep her quiet'. She was also being chased by a cult, by organized crime and by an ex husband, and all of them were trying to kill her while at the same time plotting to have her committed to a mental institution. This was why she was hiding out on the streets and in homeless shelters AND living in her car and also why nobody could know her real name.

Man, I was 16 and I smelled this bullshit a mile away, even secondhand. The woman breathlessly recounting all this to me as fact was 56. You could tell she thought this was the coolest, most glamorous and interesting thing that she had ever heard EVER.

Once I'd finished my cigarette I went back inside. 'Bambi' was being prayed for.

Now, in an ordinary setting, this might mean that people were, you know, sitting, maybe kneeling, hands folded, praying.

In this group it meant that everyone present stood in a circle around the person being prayed for, placed one hand on them and raised the other hand high into the air (presumably to get better reception) closed their eyes and made bossy demands on the Lord. "Jesus! See this woman! Jesus, help this woman! Yes! Jesus, help her bear this burden! HEAL her! Heal her now! Jesus heal her! HEAL HER NOW! IN JESUS NAME! LIFT HER BURDEN! LIFT THIS BURDEN FROM HER!"
They typically did this in turns, getting louder and more vehement until the whole group was crying, moaning, and speaking in tongues.

Yep, yep yep. Just another typical Friday night with the Catholics.

The thing was, these women were all on the downslope of middle age, and they couldn't stand for very long without getting tired. They started to droop and lean on one another after they'd been at it for a while. From a distance this looked like a bunch of people peering at something down a well while signaling to passing aircraft.
And as I knew from personal experience, the person in the middle, the one being prayed for, bore the full weight. Poor waif- like Bambi was nearly bent double.

We heard a lot from Bambi in the passing weeks. Oh my God, did you hear what happened? Bambi threw off a group praying for her with 'supernatural strength'. Bambi had 'spoken in an unnatural voice and cursed God'. Bambi had 'accepted Christ and suddenly become ill'.

Clearly, Bambi was under demonic attack.

Consequently Bambi became very, very popular. Everyone had Bambi over for dinner. Everyone took Bambi out for coffee after the meetings. People fought over who would drive Bambi back to the shelter. The group took up a collection and got Bambi out of the shelter and into an apartment. Everyone listened raptly to Bambi's stories about being raped by shadowy figures on orders from her family, receiving threatening phone calls in the middle of the night, Bambi finding her belongings had been gone through by the Mafia, Bambi seeing demonic messages appear on the ceiling above her bed at night. The 'let's pray for Bambi' session at the end of every meeting became the main draw. You never knew what would happen, and something dramatic always did. Attendance was never better.

One evening I was smoking outside in the garden when one of the Fringe came out to get me.
'We need you to come help us! Do you think you could be a prayer warrior?' she said breathlessly, clutching my arm.
" Well, let me finish my smoke first," I replied. "What's going on?"
"Bambi's apartment is haunted!" said the Fringie. "That's what's been at the center of all these disturbances!"
"You mean her new apartment she just moved into?" I asked.
"It's not new," said the Fringie. "It's in an old house. And there were people who were drug addicts and Satan worshippers living there before she moved in. And they had orgies."

I'd like to say that I laughed in her face, but no. Whaddya gonna do; it's how I was raised. We bought that kind of thing without thinking twice about it.

Now how drug-dealing Satan worshippers had managed to move into a place owned by one of this Christian groups' leaders and live there, holding orgies, drugging and worshipping away for a matter of years, was never explained. What I accepted without a thought at the time** was that kind of thing really happened, that it really called up demons and that it really opened a PORTAL TO HELL.

And I was being asked to help cleanse it! I was being asked to help cast out demons, to help a fellow Christian and to bring the light of the Lord into her home! Well fuck yeah I'll help, are you nuts? An exorcism? YOU WANT ME TO PARTICIPATE IN AN HONEST TO GOODNESS EXORCISM? I am A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL! Color me THERE!

We all piled into the Mystery Mobile-I mean, the former prostitutes' car- in an excited, Bible-toting heap...the grumpy lesbian, the vindictive Jap-hater and the former prostitute that nobody was supposed to have figured out was a former prostitute in the front seat, and the 55- year-old morbidly obese virgin, the sixteen-year-old smoker, and the smokers batshit-nuts mother in the back. We zoomed away, praying and holding hands. When the traffic lights changed we prayed for the traffic light to turn green.
Some of the ladies in the front seat started getting a little excited. Unknown tongues began creeping into the mix.

"Don't get carried away by the Spirit,' called the former prostitute as she drifted a corner on two wheels "I don't have any insurance!"

We prayed for her to get a raise so she could buy insurance at the next light.

We caromed through downtown Portland and over the Powell Blvd. bridge. Smokers' Mother had the brilliant idea to roll down the window so that upraised hands could poke out.

We passed the Poulson House, a grim Victorian I was secretly in love with. 'That's a Satanic looking place,' said the Jap Hater darkly. "I've always hated it."

We prayed holding hands over the back of the seat, all the way up McLoughlin Boulevard and down River Road until we drove up to the house, the Rental of Evil, and stopped. We prayed a little more before we climbed the stairs.

We prayed before we went inside.

We went inside, and stopped to pray in the foyer.

Bambi was already there, looking pale and twitchy in the bare overhead light.
"Where's the disturbance?" demanded former prostitute.
"I don't know", breathed Bambi. "It's the whole place, I think.."
We all joined hands and began to

The whole group moved in an awkward clump into the first room off the foyer. Speaking in tongues began in earnest. Then singing in tongues. I got mashed into a wall by 55-Year-Old Virgin's huge ass and there I remained. Trembling hands reached out and touched the walls. The furniture. The pictures. The telephone. "You never know," said Jap Hater. "Oh! Good idea!" they agreed.

The clump shuffled down the hall and moved to the next room, lead by Bambi. An overhead bulb flickered and she screamed. "It's here!"
The praying gained volume.
I got mashed into a door by the 55-Year-Old-Virgin.
We entered the kitchen. The kitchen was tiny.
Closet doors were opened and prayed into. Someone started swaying, and the whole group started rocking back and forth in unison. I was mashed into another wall at this point, and resigned myself to simply trying to draw breath while the others did the heavy battling with the demons infesting the cabinets. "It's here! I can feel it moving! It's running before us!" various people commented. "Where's it going? It went past me! I felt it! OOOOoooooooo! Lord JeEEEEEEzuz amalavangAFALAworingafala, bilitimaSIGUNAfala....."

The whole group moved as one, in a clump. A couple of the women were already reduced to panting, barely able to gasp 'Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus' by this point. Nobody'd told them that Satan would be wearing track shoes.

"It went in here! cried Bambi. The group surged forward.
'Here' was the bathroom.
A very tiny, tiny bathroom.

The group pushed forward and found that not all of them could fit into the claustrophobic, closet-sized room at once.
Satan had obviously chosen the venue for this final showdown with care.

The group decamped to the entry and considered. Bambi twittered and meeped in the background like a nervous gerbil with a bad nicotine habit. I noticed that there wasn't one single place on the floor that didn't have a cigarette burn.

Suddenly "I found it!" cried the former prostitute. She was a tiny woman, and had wormed her way to the front of the group. "Come look! I found it! Here it is!"
Everyone crowded forward.

Ever heard of Masonite? It was marketed as a waterproof, decorative material for tub surrounds in the 60's and 70's...kind of a cross between Formica and wallboard. The smooth 'space age' material it was coated with supposedly*** rendered this material moisture-resistant and easy to clean. This coating was often printed with, snowflakes, geometrics...

This tub surround was printed with a tropical island scene.
Straw huts, palm trees, coconuts, ocean waves.

And Tiki god statues.

"I knew it! I never felt comfortable in there! I always felt like I was being watched!" exclaimed Bambi.

Grumpy Lesbian was crammed against the sink. Former Prostitute was seated on the toilet. Jap Hater had what floor space there was in the center of the room.
I was crammed into the bathtub, by now utterly mortified, with Smokers' Mom and the 55-Year-Old Morbidly Obese Virgin.
'Now everyone put their hands on the wall and pray!" Former Prostitute commanded.

And they prayed. Please, God, deliver this house from the clutches of Satan. Please, God, drive the presence of demons from the images on this bathroom wall. We refute thee utterly, Satan, and all thy works, and thy leering image of thyself as rendered in driftwood and dogs' teeth by the Polynesians and the DuPont Corporation in gold glitter paint with a light waterproof coating.

Oh yeah... there they were. Jesus' little prayer warriors. Standing in the bathtub.

Exorcising the wallpaper.


*one of the first things I found out about being a charismatic catholic was that the typical unfulfilled adult catholic woman had really good reasons for being that way, most of them horrifically gynecological. also, that it takes very little provocation for your typical unfulfilled catholic woman to explain the exact nature of her particular problem at length and in excruciating detail.

**also the subject of yet another story. lucky you!

***masonite is bullshit. one scratch and the stuff swells up with black fungus like the black plague.

Monday, November 17, 2008

UPDATED: Quaint vignettes from my charming rural idyll

It's been a week of fun projects and home improvement here at Rancho FirstNations! Almost a 'duel' of projects, in fact.

The Yummy Biker made me a new computer station?

I made a Japanese-style lamp (which cleverly turns into a Rennie-inspired lamp when lit).

Inspiring the Teutonic Delinquent to stride manfully off to the garage and whomp up a small display bookcase for the front room...just because.

I cut, prepped and tempered some grounds?
The Delicious Degenerate re-routed the lighting fixtures in the front room.
I concocted a unique 'moonglow' effect for the aforementioned lamp?
The Scrumptious Sinner concocted a 'setting sun' addition to help describe the 'autumn light' quality that I was trying to reproduce, and made it PERFECT.
I threw together a collage?

The Tasty Terrorist threw together a fall meal that would have made Anthony Bourdain cry like a little bitch.

Lets all stop and enjoy that image for a few moments, shall we?, what the hell; go ahead and enjoy this one too


The Delectable Deviant had pulled into the lead by the end of the week. One glorious breakfast, a pot of excellent chili, a batch of oatmeal/chocolate chip/cocoanut/date/walnut cookies, a whirlwind cleaning of the garage and subsequent profitable 1/4 hour spent on Ebay that netted him a quick couple of bills won him the 'Home Improvement Capo Di Tutti Capo' crown.

What motivated this sudden burst of 'can-do' spirit?


...specifically BJ.



Nah, I'm messing with you! There wasn't really a Banana Split named BJ. But it's not like it wouldn't have been entirely in keeping with the general tone of 'WTF?' that informed everything that came out of this particular cartoon syndicate. Plus, it would have been pretty cool, huh.

Their names were Bingo (I think he was a muskrat or a beaver or a marmot or something; something in need of large-scale orthodontic intervention), Snorky (an elephant with paralyzed vocal cords), Drooper (a lion with erectile dysfunction) and Fleagle (an unbathed dog of some sort). As was common in many rock-n-roll supergroups of the time, they never appeared without their signature sunglasses, worn to hide the tragic evidence of their narcotic dependence.

The Banana splits were one of those Sid and Marty Kroft abominations. Another one was H. R. Puffinstuff. GOD I HATED THAT THING. "Oh MAH, Jimmay, whad're we a-gonna DEW?" seemed to be Puffinstuffs' favorite line.
..."Hey! You said it wouldn't hurt when you touched me there, Mr. Puffinstuff!"

I have no idea what H. R. Puffinstuff was supposed to be, aside from the hallucinatory product of one hell of a lot of lsd (i.e a mugwump, in which case a blowjob would not have been entirely out of the question.) My impression was of a guy with some kind of a serious, serious endocrine disorder. He had a tail, he wore a frock coat, had a giant clam for a head and he held some kind of political office. Maybe he was the Antichrist. I personally suspect him of being the sperm donor for South Parks' Ike.
...remember that lost weekend in Vancouver, H. R? Yeah that's RIGHT.

These feature cartoons were the time slot lead-ins to the suckiest lineup of the stupidest cartoons and live features ever to puke all over childrens programming.

This is one of those things from the 70's, like the band KISS and disco music, that was NEVER COOL no matter what their subsequent marketing claims. Banana Splits and Puffinstuff ATE ASS. Little kids were SCARED of them - that's why they took them off the air! GAAAAAAH big nasty stupid old dumb looking things flapping their mouths and jiggling around like lipid tumors in shoes; ick.

There's many reasons my generation turned out the way it did, kids. Sid and Marty Krofft were a big one.