The Beach on the Corner

“Dude! Then the lady throws the apples down and starts cussing out everyone in the store. It was crazy. There she was damn near naked, wearing fancy underwear and parts of some Cosplay costume. Fucking tossing apples around the store.

Everyone was ducking. If they poked their head up they would get hit with an apple. I was hiding behind the dry bulk area, laughing my ass off.”

 

Did anyone do anything, I asked.

 

My brother answered, “Not a thing. What could we do? She walked in and went directly to the produce section and when the manager approached her she started throwing apples. I was coming off break and walked in to this mess.”

 

That’s insane. What character was she dressed up as? I hope it was Sailor Moon. Is Sailor Moon still popular?

 

“How the fuck should I know? Am I the crown prince of Cosplay?”

 

You’re right, you’re in to Furries.

 

“You’re a dick. Anyway that is not why I called. Guess who called me last night?”

 

Wait, what happened with the lady throwing apples in the store?

 

“Nothing. The cops came and arrested her. She screamed crazy shit as they took her in. I think she was on something. I bet she was at that rave down at the beach last night. Those rich kids party all summer down here and throw all kinds of themed parties. One night it’s Cosplay, another night it’s Pimps and Hoes, and the next is Jersey Shore. Which is funny, cause these asshats are straight up the West Coast Jersey scum. So, guess who called me last night? Well, they did not call. They messaged me.”

 

I have no idea. Was it from distant past or recent past? Guy or girl?

 

“Fuck it, you’re not gonna guess it. It was Big Tim.”

 

Big Tim…

 

I had not thought about him in almost 20 years. Seriously, Big Tim, I thought he had died or was in hiding in South America or something.

 

What’s he up to, I asked my brother.

 

“I have no idea. He wrote to ask for forgiveness. He lives in Washington State. He has a couple of kids and is married.”

 

I sat there silent for a while. My brother was on the other end and kept saying my name, over and over. I was stunned. Hearing his name brought back a lot of memories. Nothing bad, well say for that prick, Todd, who sucker punched me at the arcade. I have a lot of good memories that flooded back. Things I had not thought of in years.

 

“Hey! Dick! Are you there? Did you hang out on me?”

 

I hear my brother’s voice and it draws me back to reality and from my past. “That’s crazy”, I say. Are you gonna call him? If you do tell him I do not hate him and whatever forgiveness he is looking for from me he has it.

 

“I will. Well, I gotta go. I need to get back to work. That crazy lady messed up the store really good.”

 

I said, “Later” and hung up. I sat there silent in thought with my past creeping back up on me. The faces were the first to return. Then the names to match the faces. Then the memories flooded back in.

I saw Big Tim’s face. He was a mountain of a man. He was at least six and a half feet tall and well over three hundred pounds. He was a big ball of muscle layered in protective fat. He was the most loyal person I knew. He stood by his friends, always.

He did not drink much. Which was good for us. We drank a lot. He protected us. In an overly simplified way he was our Lennie. We loved him for it.

We used to hang out at his house all the time. He had a pool and a covered patio where we would assemble all summer. It did not hurt that he was only two blocks from the mall. We loved going to the mall. It was our palace.

Big Tim was the glue for so many folks. The circle of friends we had all orbited around him and his house. There was Jermaine or “Big Willy” as he liked to be called, who was the star linebacker at the local public high school. He had a big heart as well. He and his brother, Chico, lived across the street from Big Tim. Chico got in to trouble a lot. He was a schemer and dealt the drugs he did not use himself.

There was Thor, who lived in his mother’s garage. He could live there as long as he kept up the pool and tended to her prized roses. He sold shoes at the mall and slept with most of his co-workers. Seriously, he was the first bi-sexual person I knew.

Brian (AKA, Fredrick) was an Iron Maiden loving hesher that lived a few houses down from Big Tim. He was a few years older than us and drove a supped up Chevelle. He thought he could play guitar. We would listen to him play so we could drink his beers.

There was Mike. He looked just like John Oates in his heyday. He was the only one of us with a mustache. He and Brian rocked mullets. Only Mike had the stache. He worked at the mall and was a really nice guy.

There was the D & D crew that played at Big Tim’s every Friday night. Jason and Robert. Robert was the Dungeon Master and Jason was the resident Salacious Crumb. Robert was the smartest person I knew. He was pursuing a career in robotics. He was our age and already in college. Jason was pursuing a career as a professional soccer player. His only problem was he lived in the US where no gave a shit about soccer.

 

Then there was the parade of Big Tim’s older sisters friends. It was as if every stereotype and assumption the late 80’s and early 90’s made were friends with Big Tim’s older sister and her aqua GEO Storm.

Give me. Give me. Give me. Give me some more!

“…I will not give something to YHWH my God that cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24

 

I first encountered this verse hanging on the wall inside of the sanctuary at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, one hot summer Sunday morning in 2004. I had never heard of Barack Obama. I have never heard of Jeremiah Wright. I was a card carrying Republican. I was a Conservative, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, and Charismatic Christian getting ready to leave North America for the first time in his life.

Sure, I had been a part of mission trips to Ensenada and Rosarito. I had partied in Tijuana. I had served as best man in Winnipeg and shuffled buck naked around the reception lodge performing the “flaming asshole” ritual to bless my best friend and his new bride. I was a man of experience but I was certainly not a man of refined experience.

I was in Chicago to begin my journey to Kenya. I was to live and work in Kenya for a year as part of a Presbyterian (USA) program called, Young Adult Volunteers (YAV). I was terrified and felt largely alone. Here I was in Chicago, a city I have only witnessed through the dominance of Michael Jordan and the winsome antics of Ferris Bueller. I was in this hazy fog of alcohol fueled “WTF” and moments of “This is not real” terror.

The week prior to attending worship at Trinity we sat through classes on cultural sensitivity, safety, sexual misconduct, emotional inventory, culture shock, and reverse culture shock. I broke bread for the first time with Christians that were different than I. These Christians loved and affirmed homosexuals. These Christians were liberals, voted for Clinton, disagreed with war, and practiced a thing called social justice. I was dumbfounded and challenged to say the least.

The day was filled with lectures and a lunchtime that was a table full of challenge. Then at night all the bullshit was put aside and we did as a bunch of twenty-something’s do in a city away from responsibility on the cusp of departure and finitude, we got drunk. We filled the local bars surrounding the seminary we were staying at with what little money we had and all the “steam” we could give. It was a fabulous oasis from what we were going to be doing in a few weeks and a wonderful way to forget what it was that we were about to sacrifice.

That week in Chicago was magical for me. It awakened in me something I had never had before, liberty to exercise my unbelief. I had begun to question my faith as my departure to leave to Kenya approached. I had backed away from the life of the church I was once heavily involved in. I saw my doubt as weakness. I saw my fear as sin.

It was this torment and uncertainty that I brought with me to Chicago that week. That torment and uncertainty sat with me in that sanctuary as the gathered praised the Lord in ways that embarrassed me and made me sweat. I felt out of place. I worried about how I looked.

I watched as the beautifully dressed choir sang for what seemed like hours. I was mesmerized with their bodies moving in rhythm and their hands clapping in synch. So many thoughts raced across my mind. I could not worship YHWH at all. I felt self-conscious and wanted to leave. Then I noticed this banner hanging across the wall above the pulpit. It read, “…I will not give something to YHWH my God that cost me nothing.”

I fixated on that sign. It spoke deeply to my soul. It gave me a place to hold on to. A divine place to breath in. “…I will not give something to YHWH my God that cost me nothing.” I consumed it. If I could have used Luke’s light saber and cut this verse like a frozen Tauntuan and crawl inside to live I would have.

I began to fall deeper in to thought. I remembered the journey to this place. I remembered Brian, a recovering addict that loved youth ministry and invested in me. I remembered Victor, my Jesus crazy charismatic ex-gang member friend who would spend hours talking about Jesus with me. I remembered Qias, my Muslim friend that spoke in poetry and danced because he loved Allah. I remembered Barb, who loved me and celebrated my journey in the face of my rejection of her call.

All of these faces flooded my mind and heart. “…I will not give something to YHWH my God that cost me nothing.” I was in some kind of trance. I could hear sounds around me, the pace was quickening. The tempo was furious. My thoughts followed the tempo. I was getting worked up. My past started to stir. My hopes, doubts, dreams, fears, and being started to lift up in to a gigantic whirlpool of “ness”.

Everything was working towards a final conflict. The “here” was beating around me. Yesterday was begging for attention. It was as if I were Govinda staring in to the face of Siddhartha inspiring me to question if any of this was really happening.

Then it all stopped. On the verge of stepping over the threshold I pulled back. I was about to get lost and I paused. The music stopped and the gathered took their seats. I was left standing, bewildered and mildly aware. I looked around and noticed everyone sitting. I quickly took my seat.

Thanking God that I had worn my navy blue shirt I wiped my brow. I tried to forget what had just happened. I sought to dismiss this act as a lark. It was a figment of my imagination. Then I looked up on the wall. Calling me out were the words, “…I will not give something to YHWH my God that cost me nothing.” Convicted and afraid I lowered myself in my seat. I was sober in a deep way that I had never realized before.

Indeed, I was about to give God something and surely it was going to cost me something. Little did I know exactly what it was going to cost me. I did know that I was never going to be the same.