A Parable

So I could have gone to see Ted Leo and the RX tonight, but instead, I didn’t. Indeed, instead I piled in the wayback of a golf-dad minivan, DVD player on the ceiling and all, and went to Cedar Rapids to see Dr. Marcus Borg, professor of theology at Oregon State University, give a talk about Jesus. In a church. In Cedar Rapids. With my dad. And his anti-fundamentalist Bible study group.

Ted Leo, I’m so sorry.

A woman in her sixties. A woman in her forties. A man in his seventies. A man in his fifties. My dad. Me. This was our cast of characters. We were to rendezvous at our destination with one of those charming, good-looking young ministers who doesn’t know what Armenianism is, but SO doesn’t believe in gay-bashing. The thirty minute drive was proof positive that people who have nothing in common really just shouldn’t even try to talk about anything at all. But it did turn out that the older man had played golf that morning with the charming, good-looking young minister, who had shot an implausible hole-in-one and then an eagle on consecutive holes. As a card-carrying materialist and hack fucking golfer, this is not the kind of thing you want to hear – that a Man of God was rewarded bounteously and for no good reason – on your way to hear another Man of God talk about Jesus. The other popular topic of conversation was, by merit of my being the unknown entity in the vehicle, me. It ran in fits and starts in which somebody would ask a question, I would briefly and promptly answer, and then they would lapse into reverie trying to conjure up a new question.

Now, it’s mildly frustrating, in an entitled “I-have-no-real-problems” sort of way, to explain to people who have never heard of Johns Hopkins that, in fact, you’re not going to “John Hopkins,” but Johns Motherfucking Hopkins, Where Frances Ferguson Is, One Of The Most Prestigious East Coast Academies Of Higher Learning, without coming off as a ginormous tool, as I just came off here on my blog. The temptation to be a ginormous tool, you understand, is simply ginormous. And when they ask you “what’s John Hopkins” and you tell them “perhaps you’ve heard of their medical center” and they say “so you’re going to a hospital,” you just have to take a deep breath and remember, there’s nothing to be gained here. I was civil. But there was still that ambition to gloat, you know? So I did, I dropped the “Prestigious East Coast Academy Of Higher Learning” card on the table like it was a river-run at a royal flush, you know?

Well, God checked that shit at the door, swatted my hubris and wagged his finger in my face like Dikembe Mutumbo. I realized halfway through the talk that I was wearing the pants with the busted fly. The zipper was down all the way, and the zipper tab was tucked way down into the bottom of the slot so that mere fingers would not be enough to yank it back up, much less subtly to not be noticed in a room of 300 hunchbacked septuagenarian men and their silvery-purple haired wives. So, in the midst of that 150 loveless, bloodless marriages, I walked the lonely mile from the back of the room to the doors, stopping periodically to wait for my dawdling father who was jawing about what a great talk it was. At least they’re old, I’m thinking. Their vanity has been bested by time. Their collective instinct to point and laugh has been dulled by all these years in this great church, this place of acceptance and charity. Through the throng we went, my zipper gaping open wide and inviting observation, my shirt too short to do anything to make it obvious that I was trying to cover my crotch with it. The only person who noticed was the only cute girl in the joint, an elfin little thing dressed all in blue. She smiled. Then she laughed. She was, for that moment, as much God's avatar as the Christ made flesh. Par for the course, I guess. It just pales in comparison to Minister Scott’s hole-in-one.

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