Here is some new video of The Demerits. This set of tunes starts with Cluck Old Hen, then goes to two Irish reels, Fermoy Lasses and The Gravel Walk.
February 27, 2007
February 25, 2007
Some time ago I met Ray.
The musicians are practicing for the service at Midtown and someone taps my shoulder and points to the back of the sanctuary. Is that Ray?
I remember a bald head, and this fellow has a concealing knit hat, and a beard I don’t recall, and is blocked by a woman’s hairdo. Maybe Ray, maybe not Ray.
In the basement for dinner, there he is. He remembers me, vaguely at least. We eat together.
Ray will tell you about himself without much coaxing. Crack cocaine has not been a merciful master this past year. He started as a marijuana addict at fourteen, but moved on to crack because it stays in the metabolism for a shorter time span and is easier to hide from the drug tests. He is now thirty-eight. Crack has not been merciful: it began as a friend, elevated itself to master, and now is exalted to goddess. In fact she has been a bitch goddess, and his servitude has claimed everything except his life. She was about to demand that as well when the cops got him.
When we last spoke Ray was proud that his addiction was under control, that he could work his job and keep the crack within appropriate responsible good citizen limits. He did sneak off to the bathroom at work a lot, just to smoke a little rock. People started to notice. Even better, his wife worked third shift, so he could stay up and do rocks all night when he should have been sleeping. By the time she got home in the morning his eyes were unable to shut, staring and twitching. Time to get up and find some money for another hit.
He quit his job to devote his life to full-time addiction, and started stealing. He lost his marriage and then a subsequent girlfriend, and had to sign guardianship of his children over to a friend. At the time it was a great solution: instead of renting a whole house he could get a little squalid corner for sleeping, and use the difference to serve the goddess. She would be so pleased, and perhaps bless him.
In December the cops got him.
He did fifty days in jail, and was sentenced to a residential rehab program. Now, at the table in the basement, he talks about the rehab program like a distant oasis. If only he can get there without dying first. They may not have an open bed for a month.
In rehab they practice a military discipline. No facial hair. Strict accountability for every moment of the day. No freedoms. Ray speaks of it like the promised land: It is all that stands between him and death.
Ray has ironworking skills, and loves to work with his hands. He dreams of working, of having dignity, of making his children proud of him. Out of his pocket he pulls a hand-written letter on notebook paper. The writing is in rounded girly teen script, from his daughter while he was in jail.
Even for a near stranger the letter is hard to read. Why, dad? Why did you do this to us? You ruined mom and me and the boys and everything. I love you and am lost and alone and ashamed of you. I hate my whole life. What is it about the drugs that you love them and hate us? Drugs are the f—– devil, dad.
Ray had to try three times just to read it through, sitting there locked up in a cell.
He hopes to stay clean until they can take him into rehab, so he goes to AA every single night. He does not care that the others are alcoholics and he is a crack addict; it still helps. Anything, anything, to stay off the street where the goddess will find him, seduce him, flog him, enslave him all over again, and demand sacrifice.
So he comes to the Red Brick Church because there is nowhere else safe for him on Saturday between five and eight o’clock.
A college student has created a small worship station off to the side of the sanctuary. Anyone who wants can write down a problem, a fear, a catastrophe, on a post-it note and stick it to a small wooden cross. Ray sits down and takes a pen.
God please take my addiction away. Signed, Ray.
+Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.+
February 15, 2007
Someone I know, someone brilliant, has interpreted the Beatitudes in a way specific to Midtown. Read.
February 1, 2007
The Un Mundo Cafe, despite suffering the stand-up comedy of the gentleman in the previous post, has survived.
We met at the Un Mundo last night so that leaders from Midtown, Faith Tabernacle, Parents as Teachers, and Children’s Rescue Center could pow wow about stuff. These are the people with whom we share the Red Brick Church.
Visit the Un Mundo if you live around here. They feature fair-trade coffee (which is really good) and every single mug and bowl in the place was made by a local ceramics artist. Their profits all go to support the Children’s Rescue Center.
I am going to be at work less, and at the Mundo more…