Turning The Table
Butter was an ingredient my Italian grandmother Francesca used as a flavor carrier for spices in her Eagle River kitchen. Built in 1921, the space was an attached house to a 32 by 50 foot lodge. The kitchen tripled as a living room, dining room and pass through from the resort’s lodge into the master bedroom. Left out on a glass dish with a glass cover, the butter became soft and easy-to-spread.
The cavernous lodge, a craftsman-inspired meeting place, was decorated with stiff stuffed buck heads. Their wild rule now removed from the coniferous forest and turned into a domestic petting zoo. The bucks’ prominent antlers were way above my head. Barely in reach, I’d elevate my height on tippy toes to pet the pointed trophy. My bug repellent dusted arm brushed by my face, the coarse neck hair wasn’t what I thought it would be. Worn velvet couches surrounded the large stone fireplace where the wooden mantle stated: “Here let the fires of friendship burn.”
One time a middle-aged man tanked on drinks from the bar was plastered to the olive green sofa chair; boots kicked off. He shot up as if he heard a military command when Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ flew Mexican horns out of the jukebox. He sang it like he was saluting Cash himself. There were few barriers within the lodge, but the bar was a restricted area. The visible warning, ’21 or Skidoo’ affixed to the top of the entryway, kept me away from the perceived danger: a ridge line of scotch topped with smooth pourers and other spirits’ bottles shelved in front of the bay window over looking Eagle Lake.
Children burst forth in bunches from the 400-feet of lakefront property, having swam to the astro-turf covered raft, caught a back pedaling crayfish or sought help for leech removal from their sun-soaked skin, through the swinging screen porch entrance door. It slapped against the frame. The lodge echoed and reverberated vocal excitement like a symphonic acoustic chamber. You could hear wonderful plans to build sandcastles, go for a boat ride from Eagle Lake to Scattering Rice and play tackle football in the fresh lake water.
A small congregation gathered around the old ice cream parlor. The deep freezer had two collapsible silver doors that quickly flapped open and closed as my grandmother used matte silver ice cream scoopers to serve rambunctious children visible just behind the metal racks with clips holding an assortment of Frito-Lay chips. Funyuns rings were my favorite. Four brown buckets were trailed with scoop tracks like a toboggan run deep into the five gallons. Ice cream scoops were created like collapsing waves and pushed into a plain or sugar cone so that it would stick together with a few layers and withstand the force of bites and licks. Francesca, or Fran as the resort residents fondly called her, would at times raise her thick Chicago-Italian accent to let misbehaving children know there’s no name calling here.
The black leather-wrapped spinning stools stationed in front of a gigantic mirror and glossy wooden counter space for elbows served as a buffer where the guests could purchase Tombstone pizza. Chris was one teenager who would accent his slices with squiggly lines of ketchup. In between the deep freezer and a long section of counter space was an opening. As grandchildren we’d have the privilege to walk through into the attached home. Just past the swinging screen door, you’d notice the glass window of American novelty candy encased in the wooden counter space that held an antique cash register, brochures for horseback riding and resort information. M & Ms (plain and peanut). Twizzlers. Baby Ruth. Milky Way. Snickers. Milk Duds. A corner rack of shuffleboard poles was full like the pool stick rack. On the opposing wall a sturdy gun rack horizontally held a small collection of World War II swords and rifles with bayonets left of the fireplace. The relics displayed were an exciting exhibition because each piece gave you a taste of how the world ticks. Moving through the opening, you could take a break, sliding your hands across the deep freezer on one side and high counter space on the other, from the spinning foosball rods, colliding pool balls and roaring raucous just a little bit more muted through the doorway.
Upon entry, there were wooden chairs around the dinner table. The person sitting there would generally have to move for the person to get by. The kitchen became a busy intersection and a social center for planning cabin operations, maintenance, rest and relaxation. Meal preparation was a key aspect of the area like television station selection. You had to be aware of what could glide through the channel. Days of Our Lives screened most afternoons before the napper passed out on the sofa recliner. Once I snapped out of a nap, Fran would tell me to go outside to the point on the property. There I’d see a bald eagle swooping away from its towering nest.
My character formed by observing the cast who stopped over for coffee and pastries. These resort helpers diligently cared for the sixteen rustic cabins; fixing pipes and pampering linens. The sprawling forests were edged up by lapsing erosion of the surrounding chains of lakes. The vast landscape ebbed away by those who disobeyed the bobbing buoy in a speedboat swiftly sweeping through the channel forming a strong diagonal wake. Metal fishing boats banged against the short wooden piers. Minnows shot together in another direction. Sunlight flashed upon their broadside scales. Lilly pads did the stadium wave. The body of water settled down. Winds from afar created ripples of relationships, there were days where our vessels couldn’t withstand the choppiness; however we carried forth overtime and had a profound affect on families who ventured the six-hour road trip from Chicago.
In a spacious navy blue Dodge Conversion van with soft velvet interiors, we wound through small Wisconsin towns: Hortonville, New London, Clintonville, Wittenberg a pit stop and here we go to Antigo, and Three Lakes. When the packed sandwiches and pops were eaten and emptied we arrived in Eagle River slowly. Bright lights spotlighting fluffy white-tail deer, around the crushed stones’ path like a lasso around the prime lakefront property. A family of six escaped Chicago and fled ‘up north’ to the hideaway in ‘God’s country’.
Learning without the lecture, wide-open spaces during a time when it was more difficult to track and trace the horseback trails and gassy go-kart rallies. Pedal to the metal to see where we could go. There were not global position satellites babysitting our movements. One led and the rest tried to get ahead in the summer air like spilled gasoline cologne. Single stadium lights were swarmed with biting and fluttering insects. To keep them off you had to slap them just as they landed and not expanded full of blood. Avoid the girl who spun out in the hairpin turn. She’ll get pointed in the right direction. We’d swerve into the black metal corral lined with rubber tires after the final lap was tallied. The Kartway employees yelled at me when they saw my kart bump into one of my sisters in the line up. Fender benders caused laughter especially when one kart caused the second to bump into the third.
My family would gather in the kitchen where big band oldies swooned ballroom couples with musical hands on WRJO clear up to the ‘U’ ‘P’ where we ate oven warmed pasties. The laced pastry textures, handmade raviolis lay out on fresh towels like plenty of pasta pillows, deep-dish pizza, red velvet gravy, steamy boiling water and garlic aromas enticed me to make rounds around setting the table. When Fran was in the other room I’d tear off a piece off a fresh baguette and sink it into the slow bubbling red gravy and pop it into my mouth before she returned. Sometimes burning my tongue. When she’d catch my sneaky conduct I’d run up the stairs to the attic while avoiding the framed photographs. She’d chase me with a kitchen utensil and at the top of my lungs I yelled, “child abuse” at the top of the steps as my adrenaline ignited super human strength.
Preparations were important for the banqueting table of love. Fran always had room for more company so we’d add a leaf or two to the table for Butch ‘The Woodsman’ who was the resort’s handyman. Fish scales, like opaque armor plating scattered throughout the ramshackle fish house, stuck to his suspenders and plaid flannel. He chewed on Dutch Master’s single cigars while he filleted pan fish like a sushi chef on Vilas County newspapers. Butch returned from the fish house with silver tray weighted down by fresh water pan-fish filets. We’d turn the table so that it would sit at the right angle for the proper spacing of each place and chair.
The Woodsman made arrangements with Fran and my mom to spend a couple of hours on his 40-acre forestry property to earn vacation money. He collected beer and pop cans from numerous sources around town. Extra large black trash bags bulged. Empty cans were piled in a huge heap. The can crusher was affixed to the open garage wall. On the first try the can fell out from the vice Sheepish at first to crush the can with force Butch slammed the handle down like a brut to show me what to do. The can was reduced to a quarter of its size. Now just repeat. To compensate I put a can on the ground and crushed it with my foot. He told me in chubby charred cigar gibberish “to use my arms because your arm muscles will grow.” My sneakers and pants were coated when the sticky syrupy liquid splattered after I rhythmically crushed the aluminum cans.
My grandma positioned the freshly baked breaded baked fish, veal, braciole, fresh calamari (tentacles too) and velvet red gravy upon the centered thick heat pads. She always knew what to do. The elegant cursive numbers in her business accounting checkbook were accurately written like the numbers were telling a story. My grandma’s olive hands created hand-sewn dresses for her sisters during the Great Depression on Taylor Street in Chicago, Illinois. She learned to cook the foods of other ethnicities surrounding Little Italy. Fran worked with what she had. Her Italian last name means “street sweater,” certainly was tailored to her industrious identity. She carefully watched over the affairs of her household. Women will always man an integral role within the kingdom of heaven and because of her I believe in the one whom LORD God has sent.
The weatherman featured the string of severe storms moving across the Northern woods communities with his right hand like a closed peace sign. The warnings continued to stream in red along the bottom of the tube television during primetime programming. Fran let all the cabin dwellers know about the gloomy weather report. Turtle was bare-chested with a sleek gold chain around his neck. He wore swim trunks and flip-flops. The screen porch slapped against the inflatable seven-foot turtle. He sat inside the deep plastic plastron.
Most people were dumbfounded when they saw what he was going to do. The patches of clouds were pushed aside by thick darkly colored grey blankets. It’s like a comforter thrown into the atmosphere. His legs hung over on either side of the turtle’s tail. His head rested against the turtle’s head. He used his long arms like oars to push out off the soft brown sand beach into the choppy warm water. He disembarked out of the ordinary underneath the brilliant neurotransmitter display; a glorious stake out. The off grid power of LORD God intimidated as each high voltage synapse cracked across the sky. Turtle’s curly dirty blonde hair like a perfect sphere, full of static electricity, stood out like an emphatic sign of faith. To me, he was a marker, as with each stroke towards the middle of the 34-foot deep lake. The merging cloud fronts darkened the theater for hot white and royal purple light to precisely strike. He went to where the danger was where faith becomes possible to please LORD God. Each snap had the potential to reveal character. Some are capsized here. Others find safety here senses awakening by the greater stake.
After the heavy rainstorm, Fran told me where the milk cartons, cutout like giant scoopers could be found in the garage. These plastic scoopers bailed out the resort’s aluminum fishing boats so they wouldn’t sink. So I walked out to the property point through the maze of clapboard-sheathed cabins with one scooper per hand. I tossed one into the air and caught it with the other. Here the channel meets the wide-open lake. Wooden wake buffers block careless speedboats’ waves and erosion from eating the property line. Large crayfish hid under sunken stones to capture hair-trigger minnows inside these two-foot wide partitions. Sometimes I’d look to see what would be there as I slowly lift up the rock, but I had work to do.
Buoyancy. God’s country enjoyed. The outdoors surrounded by movement seen and the voice made known through good things like a root beer floats with glacial vanilla ice cream. The crisp Canadian air was carefully combed by a trillion pine needles. My position steadied over the starboard quarter sequestered the rainwater to the tilted corner. Although tied to the wooden dock the boat teetered and tottered fluidly directly abeam to the waterline. Accidently, I allowed more water inside the hull. As the clear water and boat debris spilled back into Eagle Lake I put the water where it should go next. The cattails like corndogs leaned to one side on hollow skewers among the tall green grassy water plants.
When the chore was finished I walked back through the white clapboard-sheathed cabins to the house, daddy long legs silently creeping along the horizontal boards on silky stilts. I told my grandma what a good job I did. Fran stood at the helm of her business stationed in front of her antique cash register. She rewarded my efforts with one candy from the glass display case beneath the wooden counter. In a lilting Italian voice she said, "make a good choice." Carmel Twix. There’s two. She was a giver. We brought back pounds of Tremblay’s homemade fudge to give away to our friends as gifts every summer. This is the process of becoming sweet like the employees who stirred the creamy fudge with large wooden oars over and over to continue an age-old skill. My grandparents left the big-band ballroom dancing scene behind in Chicago. My grandpa was scouted by a recruiting agent while playing for the Pirates. He had professional baseball ambitions with the Chicago White Sox. They sold their Sinclair gas stations in Cicero. They saw opportunity in the purchase of a family vacation resort in Eagle River, Wisconsin.
There were two more things that coursed adrenaline through my veins in the Northern Woods. A sleek black bat had boldly flown over our beds like an acrobatic aircraft in the unfinished attic. The contest was confined to one half the size of the large room and the other side was partitioned with stored items wrapped in plastic and mothballs. My grandpa, had good eye bat coordination so he caught the elusive animal with a large fishing net fit for tiger muskies as we screamed underneath our blankets. Risky things happened below in the lodge like being lightly frisked by an Italian teen as she passed by the straightaway of the pool table and rounded the corner to take her next shot. The classic rock bass notes from the jukebox, lyrics not audible, wooed me to sleep as they seeped through the floorboards during the late evening hours with songs like Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town.” The good life here was like the soggy rim of a plain ice cream cone dwindled down to a smooth grain slope of your favorite flavor. Chocolate.
Sometime past noon, the pool balls dropped into the corner pocket and rolled through the series of ramps underneath the full-sized slate table. The ever-present beer company hung above the pool table. It was decorated in past time script on the blue lampshade like an upside down bread pan. Every so often it moved sideways from an unabridged pool stick. Look, there’s a bunch of hat cases and valuables wrapped in bubble wrap up there. It’s just me now. I snooped around the top of a closet shelf while inadvertently discovering a stash slash stack of vintage 70s Penthouse Magazines. It was like igniting the wick of a half-stick of dynamite. The deafening blast hit me like invisible force of rage and threw me on my back. My light blue suitcase transported these exposures of women posing nude across state lines.
The next day, starting from the attic, I walked down the steps toward the rotary phone where I saw a calendar full of blocks. Inside the blocks were names of families slated to stay for one to two weeks during the summer. My first recollection of seeing my grandparents was when they sat, angled toward the antique, gold foil coffee table between them, in sturdy furniture chairs at the base of the staircase leading to the attic. They were clothed in long pajamas and robes. Their eyes absorbed the red text of the Holy Bible early in the morning. Steaming cups of black coffee sat on pastel coasters made from scoops of grounds from an unsealed plastic top tin can. Before another day of running the resort a spiritual precedent was set forth in favor of peaceful renewal rooted in the everlasting.
The war waged on within my core being by being shy. I’d went into hiding when families started to arrive in vacation packed vehicles from the Chicagoland area. My grandma told me once, “Go and make friends with them”. My inner thoughts made my mode slow with a yearning to know. By the time I did, the summer weeks were coming to a close. A few days left. Story after story lived out and told along the way contributed to my upbringing. Mine was different than some kids at the resort like Johnny. How I said, in front of everyone, he was adopted at the wrong time made Johnny walk away like an upset outsider. It made me feel terrible. Adoption was a concept I didn’t quite fully know at that age.
When we were teenagers, he asked me to go with him on his dad’s single engine metal fishing boat at ten o’clock at night. I agreed. We were in the middle of a liquid black lake with the moon sparkling outside the wake. He twisted the throttle to full speed and turned violently into a centrifugal circle while horrifically screaming. I could see the lake water just barely spilling over into the boat. Then he’d cut into a counter-clockwise movement. Staying still in the middle of the bench seat I wasn’t sure if we’d be back alive. This wouldn’t be the first downing conviction of fresh water. I screamed at the top of my lungs too as if I trusted the dangerously insane way he maneuvered the fishing boat. Let it all out. As we docked the boat and tied it back to the pier, his parents scolded Johnny. They could hear us screaming far from shore in the middle of the deep lake. Fran brought me closer to whom I was to become. My addiction dislodged from the lodge. My adoption papers were signed with a blood oath; Christ my last resort.
Beneath the 60-foot pine tree, scarred with a single lightning strike, scalped the bark four inches wide from the highest point to the trunk, Grandpa taught me how to scatter seeds. The wind carried the whimsical paratroopers in a general direction. As they landed the hope of regeneration showered out of a green hose. The threading perfectly fit. Green grass blades populated promptly along the lake front property from white cabins’ foundation to the water’s boulder lined edge. Signs of life. This was the first encounter with how a lightning strike from a storm could form a wondrous sight and sound. The sight and sound carried forth years beyond years into adulthood. During the evening, I remember the under the table dealings with bottles affixed with smooth pourers at the bar scene. Not just a splash. There was no violent crash. Utter silence disturbed by grunts of breath. Monstrous tendencies like lightning miss their mark. After he turned off the neon beer signs he’d teeter tottered through the length of the lodge, steady bravery until stabilized between the business countertop and the deep freezer. Then he slowly entered through the carpet-brushing door, safely inside the living room. No blue ribbon prize awaited him inside the bedroom, but the strong arthritis stricken hands of Fran who walked beside him during each of the resort’s seasons. Her prayers kept the evil from seizing control of everything.
At one point his drinking had such a stronghold on his life that he threatened my grandma at gunpoint. Black spirits jutted out. The probability of total destruction was imminent. She called the only Christian bookstore in town for help. The manager recommended Al-Anon. My grandma didn't know how to address the problem. Heavy drinking caused the daily operations to be nearly run by Fran. A few days later the bookstore sent a man by the name of Mike to the resort. He prayed a prayer of deliverance. The bullet never left the chamber. Shame exited the chambers of their hearts within seconds as they concluded in Jesus’ name. My grandparents let Jesus into their hearts; two more fish flipping around in an unsearchable net worth. Soon thereafter they were baptized in Eagle Lake. In reference to Tony Orlando’s song “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” my grandfather tied a couple of yellow ribbons around some oak trees along the hilly Eagle Park Lane road leading up to their property to show my grandmother that he still loved her.
My grandparents paved the way for our family vacation spots. In the navy blue Dodge Conversion van, my three older sisters and I were privileged to go as far north in the United States and far south to the white sand beaches of Destin, Florida as the roads would allow. The first time my sisters and I walked on the magnetic white sand we wore winter coats between the mounds of light brown sea oats. We learned how to take shuffling steps so that the sugar sand would screech beneath our feet. We’d play follow the leader on the wide wooden railings of a neighboring resort’s gazebo. We were not afraid of falling below because the cool silver dunes would catch us. Gulf waves raved all night with the voice of higher ways. The air’s salty weight pushed against my wintry brace like a tropical massage of Mid-western liberation.
Back then Destin was a sleepy fishing village with little large developments; progress was made with character development rather well picking up seashells. We played goofy golf and ate fresh seafood. Rummikub pool tiles were mixed up in a folded at the top Ace Hardware bag that became well worn. The tiles clinked against each other each time we past the bag for another family member to take their turn. When it was my play, I’d rearrange most of the linear tiles of other players for a grand strategy to win the game by going out and over turning my black rack. It worked sometimes and other times my family members would reluctantly remember how to reassemble the pool tiles into their original settings. That move didn’t make everyone happy. Air force jets routinely made passovers; windows rattled. The secret leaked out by the snowbird population. The squawking got louder each time they raised their hands like a flailing politician but tossing nothing out.
The night my dad drove the conversion van home from a dealership in Indiana I crawled in between the captain chairs on navy blue carpeting and underneath the collapsible plush velvet blue couch in the back. The interior lights lit the factory-finished interior like a quiet courtyard. Memories were yet to be made in mint condition. Blue lint stuck to the fabric of my cotton t-shirt. My dad said, “Okay, Kevin time to get out of the van. You can see more tomorrow. I need to go to bed.” He shut the double side doors.
Snuggly fit between my father and mother seated in the plush captain chairs, the blue Gott cooler was packed with ice, sandwiches and pop among other road trip essentials. Our hands dug into the ice chest for a pop, but if you didn’t get your favorite you’d have to brave a hand of hypothermia. The excess ice chips and water were shook off. The top popped as the seal broke. Two tongues dissolved in the in-road beverage. Lost in the thousands of chalked highway miles we traveled together I became a cloud curator.
The Artist not under salary created the intricate waterways like watercolors. These galleries of LORD God, formed my speech and gave me silent knowledge when I had none. Apparent wind drove these enormous cumulous clouds as storm containers constantly changing the atmosphere’s aesthetic. Understanding poured into my life on the road traversing several states over many years. The voice of LORD God moves over these territories, appearing and disappearing like top-tier tears, joy alternating hues and moods to the ends of the earth proclaiming the work of his hands; not simply a weather pattern.
The foreshadow had burst forth out of the storehouses of westerlies. Each time I felt its force it put me at ease because it pleases the Lord. In front of the resort’s lakefront clapboard-sheathed cabins my hands had moved along the lightning bolt stripped bark, bare to the touch, smooth as if the precise strike was a violent flash of heavenly light. He pulled out props from the treasuries. Nobody knows where they are. They rush in like a mighty wind that I cannot hold. He shattered my windshield by the telling the lightning bolt to roll over. One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand—the storm is coming. Trembling at the word. Others see ominous clouds moving over the inhabitants, yet the green light makes the backyards strange as grays hanging down from the sky like Spanish moss. The conditions are right to propel the measurement of faith; wonder illuminates my face like glossy oil. Intricate electric etchings across the horizon splintered off from the main bolt like the vine and branches. He sends them along with his reign, his rain upon creation, as the creator knows them not by serial number, but more intimately by name.
He has called me by my name during the fall. Enabled to reach out and respond out of the darkness and despondences. He enrolled me into the record. These writings out there to the ruminations and back drive the discourse from the source lap after lap after lap. I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my LORD God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness. ‘Street sweater’ is the meaning behind my grandma’s last name. Her extended family members in Bari, Italy were professional tailors. Once they sailed over to America they started from the street and worked hard to bring about thriving prosperity. The robe of righteousness and street sweater together has given me abundant meanings of texture within the interwoven narrative fibers.
Over the years, LORD God revealed the needlepoint he placed in my life like Francesca’s crochet booties. He has given me warmth among the prisoners of sin by allowing me to knit together all scraps of fabric. How great thou art to allow a prisoner to rise again with Jesus and wear the same robe of righteousness he alone has made. He brought me to his banqueting table; he added a leaf to make a place for me. The power being cooked at the stove and served at my grandmother’s table had powerfully influenced my life. This is who I am, merely a recipient of His love.
You see your reflection on the sterling silver utensils, the plump section of the chilled water goblet raised up two inches by a glass stem and base, and the lower level of the glossy dinner plate. It’s a reminder that I am here. Bonds of trust are formed by giving up your plate in return for a certain portion of food. Napkins are at the lap. The red gravy spatter stains your shirt. The hands hold promise. The eyes exchange living hope. The laughter transmits joy. A yearning to live in the divine nature admits deeper understanding. Salute.
There’s something always in demand. Around the corner is another basket of freshly baked bread. Someone asked for the crystal tray of butter. The stick is softened by room temperature, but a little more sunken by the presence of all the people. The passing keeps happening until there’s something of everything on each bowl, plate and side dish. The utensils are further used to manage, breakdown and lift to satisfy the needs of the palate and nutrient deficiencies. There’s something or someone that’s always missed. You were meant to sit face to face and engage the others with a love like no other. You discover how, in sickness and in health, to survive by every word of LORD God. This is true wealth.
My mom defended her autonomy, not that she could outsmart destiny by telling my grandmother, “Oh mom, don’t get religious on me!” Meanwhile, LORD God had other plans for my mom’s way of back talk. When one load of laundry went through the wash, rinse and spin cycle it came to a complete stop. She transferred the damp clothes from one appliance to another routinely. The metal fins would lift the heavy heap as high as it could until it fell on to the base and repeated. Thousands of revolutions tumbled in a hot and dark place. More and more dry. Tiny pieces of the fabric disappear into the lint trap. The clothes became fluffy and light.
My mom opened the dryer door and the white florescent light shined on the towels. Between picking each shower towel and folding the towels’ soft fibers into a compact arrangement, she made a decision to do away with Catholic regulation and invite Jesus into her heart. A life of total reliance on his righteousness sprouted in the laundry room. She began stoutly talking back to the Father by the kindest fabric softener upon her heart. The Spirit filled the room like floral fragrance. My mom didn’t have to do her dirty laundry any longer because the precious blood had done the wash in a way no one has ever done before.
New Era Capstone
The new era in my life has been qualified by my belief in Jesus’ crowning achievement: raised to life from a brutal death. The relief came. Like a centurion, the commanding phrase was “gimme another” helping form the stew. The steward of personal pleasure was like super glue. My hands instantly impaired by squeezing the tube. Clear liquid of impure thoughts leaked out with no ventilation. Easy epicure that’s a wide path of intelligent indulgences; a soul not meant to sell. The stronghold looked for an instant short sale on the craftsmanship’s true value. The eras of errors corrected by the inherent word. Aroma of fools. Sniff. Loop-da-loop. Get stuck. Misunderstood enough. I’m up to no good. Bridge across the gulf as the truth walked beyond the bluffs. LORD God lifted me through the uprights; it’s good. All that has happened violently shook my life so that his life could remain. There’s now no other way preferred.
Surely, he’s the Son of LORD God. The soul behind my salvaged denim-blue eyes will be still, knowing my hope is completely in LORD God. Love never leaves. Thumbtacks pushed into lewd paper logs, overlapping other prisoners bogged down, on the cross—covered like college collage bulletin boards affixed to the world’s stage. The evil evicted from our tents by the One who was sent. Ageless victory.
Believe from here to eternity. A home run. My heart is set on pilgrimage over weeping waves of compacted trash where the pickings provide just enough. Appear before the only loyal LORD God. The trembling response will be affection for the One, surrounded by a great assembly, who resides in the lovely dwelling place. The voyages enjoyed with the living Lord shimmering in my dimness. There is no other safe passage. The hat of salvation can be worn from the complete fulfillment of the ancient prophecies by Jesus Christ and the resurrection power moving forward through the original disciples, shoulder upon shoulder until now, where the gospel torch has been passed to me from my grandmother to my mother to me; like Timothy. Regeneration permitted generation to generation to generation.
The massive leap of a mud caked sheep, in midair admit I wouldn’t get there, caught in the arms of the One who left for the one. It was simple by the power of your love. Done. Acceptance of the free gift by my bedside was like being sick; bedridden I needed to be picked up. The visitation changed my final destination. Tugged and pulled apart these ribbons and placed them into the feed with strength. The loving words were imprinted upon my heart by the variety of kindness types. I could sense each strike by his stripes; the griping fled. Remove the bow and know. There was no heavy lifting, just listening to my mother delivering LORD God’s loving message.
Under my covers, this prayer covered the youngest boy’s spoil, most soil and the future troubles once I left the suburban shelter: hairy-blue carpeting, plastic white blinds and National Football League wallpaper. My father and mother immersed the cut columns decorated with helmets and three dimensional block team names in warm bathtub water down the hall from the addition. The retractable measuring tapes to determine square footage. Matching patterns. Additional negative notes written on the wallpaper between the back of the door and the closet about my three sisters made the drywall a wet wall of fabricated expression. These fragments not retractable and the exact lesson was learned how my words could be their addition or subtraction. My parents took time, hands aligning the giant sheet like a pliable stick of gum, to hang the wallpaper straight before it dried. Once all the walls were covered, I could see the NFC and AFC team’s helmets and team names like big letter shadow boxes. My mom turned the plastic black knob to switch off my Houston Oiler’s helmet lamp once the set design was complete. They walked down the hallway into some other room. They were paired together and I arrived unexpectedly. LORD God placed me their care. Spoon-fed in a high chair. Lay down in the crib, their hand cradled under my head. The next stage would come soon.
The kitchen was the setting where sticks of butter were used to prepare all kinds of meals. Butter in the refrigerator. Butter softened in the glass-mixing bowl. The influx of butter luxury from the land o lakes reminded me of pastoral care, way up there, where pine trees dress the land and bald eagles spread their wings to glide on storehouse winds. Lick the chrome beaters, offered not taken, to assault my taste buds with brown sugar arrowheads. In admiration, I watched each creative step to make something for the whole family. Butter held things together.
As a boy, I remembered how my grandma and ma used two butter-stick wrappers to grease the cookie sheets. The wrappers were used for all it's lubricant worth after the softened goodness glossed the oven-tried sheets. The wrapper was then discarded with the other rubbish. The chocolate chip dough would not stick to the metal surface. No picking and scrapping after the microwave timer sounded off; only teeth sinking into good semi-sweet eats.
The butter sticks were on top of the wet ingredients like shipping containers. They were properly measured to the orange plastic measuring cups’ brim and poured into the glass bowl. Set into the circular groove of the rotation plate. The mix began at a low speed; no rush. White sugar crystals mixed with vanilla like curbed winter slush. The butter sticks were mangled between the rotating beaters; never touching each other by design, but they came close. The dry ingredients went next. All these things worked together. The medium-sized balls of dough were spooned up, spaced out on the metal surface and slid onto the top rack in the pre-heated oven. My ma would turn on the light for me to watch the baked goods rise; my height at her waist. When the chocolate chip cookies were finished baking my ma slid them off the metal sheet with a spatula and placed them on the wire-framed cooling racks; piled stacks high. The chocolate chips were melted into the brown sugar dough like sweet tide pools. A tall glass of fresh white whole milk poured into my glass like a flash flood. The dessert was set for a muddy mouth washed down with a rich river of ice-cold white whole milk.
Kindness of another kind has met me in an incredible line of spiritual lineage. It was all given to us. Life and breath. The promise of LORD God was passed along from Abraham, over and over through the ages and generations to me; He called my name. The most elaborate spread transformed me into a seeker where I became aware of how the keeper of my heart was much greater. I couldn’t grab it, but His Spirit was always there; placed in his presence. Salvation stirred and nurtured along the way in ways not dreamt. He thought of it all. The most astute pen of praise would stall attempting to fully describe the deep richness and scribe the complete script detailing His opulent care sustaining our lives.
The blood of the Lamb with my words carry blessed assurance for others to receive revelation that they too will triumph over the evil one. One more try. Act living sacrifice. Do not blink or shrink from death. Preparations made with the found things for our last supper. Reclined in fully furnished rooms until it’s time. We’ll share the suffering for the kingdom of LORD God. Multiplied testimonies of the brethren. Rev up the zeal in what’s righteously revealed so that we’ll never lose sight of our healer. Who else will be sealed? How He must marvel at His handiwork, light through a kaleidoscope and rejoice by each accomplished vision.
How I long to take a walk into eternity my Author to listen to what He has done in all its complexity. It’s something to look forward to like the discovery of understanding on family walks, shoes talked around the neighborhood. The chrome beater handed to me by my ma was enough like the first fruit of her labor of kindness. The highlight of the high Light. The ceremony when Christ lifts up the veil of His bride, washed with the water of the word, clothed in white linens of righteous service, flowing in the wind, will shine splendor. Witness the Bridegroom’s majestic movements. Follow in his footsteps. The divine dance with unhindered reception.
Women were entrusted with an integral role in the redemption of mankind. They courageously supported Jesus and the twelve out of their own means. They stood near the cruel cross at Golgotha. On the third day, the gnarly bearded brothers after their footrace to the tomb were puzzled by the burial garments left behind, but believed something miraculous had happened. The brothers returned to where they stayed.
Outside the tomb’s opening, Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene in her deep grief. Jesus casted out seven demonic oppressors and healed her diseases by the power given to him by the ‘Vinedresser’. Quickly came living relief. Mary knew it was her Teacher by the epiphanic tones in his pure voice as he called her name. How would it sound to you to hear Jesus say your name?
She became the first witness to spread the good news to the brothers by affirming that ‘Jesus is alive’. Mary held onto Jesus as if he hadn’t booked the return flight home to ‘my Father and your Father, my God and your God’. Around forty days away, Jesus used this time to teach and talk about the kingdom of LORD God in celebration and passionate proof of his righteous resurrection. It was more profound than a parade succeeding a championship contest because the treasure was set in heaven and new hearts. Rave in the ticker tape.
Mary completed her assignment and was reminded of the shared relationship with LORD God in Christ. The matriarchs of women who have raised me through adversity were not underestimated in their kingdom value like those who forget the nurture in the narrative. Mothers, as I joked that I had five: my Grandma, Ma and three older sisters helped me strive, with all my heart, to live out my full potential within the fullness of God. He got my attention and it’s time to celebrate.
A few pews away from the grand piano rested on steel dolly, Bruce played from rehearsed memory. His slicked back black hair shined under the tungsten light fixtures. Through the large square stacked windows I could see the pond through ever changing seasons. Ten fingers on keys softly struck the door of worship with padded hammers while inside the large chapel on the campus of Willow Creek. I walked through not knowing what I’d see. Camille’s lovely reflection on the curvaceous piano bed swayed to the marriage of melody and lyrics she knew by heart. My soul longed for this outburst; fill the thirst by the wellspring. The designated space for the Sunday night event called Insight was safe. Opening my mouth, harmonizing with the selected song for minutes long, vocal cords prepared my secret place for the Lord, found hope living among the song extended longer into repeating radiant phrases. His foot lifted pressure from the piano pedal. Your presence had no end in your depths of peace. There was the song list, but I thrived when we went way beyond the cusp of spontaneity. We sang in unity and nothing held me back from making the moment filled with all my being. The insight gained from these weekly gatherings was special knowledge of how powerful his glory shines through the doorway of worship led by the Spirit of the living God. Praise was ingrained in my heart’s crimson stain. His power erupted within me. Gooey fire poured out. My spirit shouted aloud as the ties were loosed. His praise will ever be on my lips. I’m better off with this gift. The way he showed up left me in a state of expectant surprise.
‘Jesus is Alive’ from Hosanna Music was one album my mom played on her compact disc player inside her room, where I walked in with a pile of dirty clothes; caused me to stay a little longer. The music softly enticed me by anointed arrangements and choral celebrations. After I asked about the album I finished dumping my used clothes into the laundry chute in her closet. The world-class brass section shrilled my soul like the African-American women singing out of the abundance of their joy filled hearts. Little did I know that I was being drawn near into the heart of radiant praise.
The jubilant rhythms, with bursts of skinned percussion instruments hit by scaly hands, made me exist with palms up in a balmy Caribbean climate. The rising, falling and sustaining lyrical and theatrical streams kept lovingkindness beaming down from the eternal dwelling place of LORD God. Out of silence: Be Glorrrifiiiied. Beee Glorrrifiiied. Beee Glorrrifiiied. Ron Kenoly’s carrying and commanding voice with 2,400 other worshippers invited me to worship the Lord around his throne. Bonta. His last name reminded me of a cannoli, an Italian dessert. It was all about what was going on within the powder-sugared shell.
Apostles clothed flannels of faith, gathered in Jerusalem and scattered abroad by design as spiritual descendents of ‘the true vine’ were anointed to ‘go and make disciples’ of all nations before Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father. The Messiah is here among us on the roads between cities. He wants to know the specifics of what we’re discussing as we walk along into the city limits, His power unlimited. Intimate direction. He desires the truth in our inmost being. Over a wide array of casserole dinners, a potluck style dinner, Jesus instructed the brothers to ‘stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ Los Angeles. Everything written before hand was fulfilled about him. He sent us what the Father promised: The Comforter. It was an amazing era of miracles, visions projected by trances, and heaven opening during quiet times. An Italian man named Cornelius who gave generously to the poor and regularly called out to God was used to show Peter the Jew that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles too.
“26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29
The Holy Spirit gives us comfort food with the word and the revelations received by Jesus and given to us. Jesus delights in interacting with his people in measures fit for the moment. Divine matters happened in the domestic setting. What was the interaction like between Jesus and his ma during the food preparation? Those quickly passing moments of where the path to take is honed. My grandma was a wise Italian woman. She told you what you needed to hear even if you didn’t want to know the truth over a plate full of homemade pazelles sprinkled with powdered sugar, cannolis with crushed green pistachios on each end and medium sized biscotti wedges (not the oversized monstrosities found in macro-coffee chains). She fought for the people she loved. Seated at the kitchen table, often times when I’d find myself off, lost in thought, she’d softly remark, “You’re a million miles away, aren’t you.”
The Lord himself has given me many signs of his blessings and guidance upon my life by observing my grandmother's cooking. He paired us together like chocolate chip cookies and ice-cold white whole milk. Blessed were her hands that prepared these meals. As I ponder the life of Jesus the Messiah, I wonder if the interaction between Mary and Jesus was like what I have experienced between my grandma/ma and I. All these things were comprehensively building toward his ministry that gave the world life eternal.
There is something beautiful, lovely and intimate that happens when mothers prepare food for their loved ones. This resembles the banqueting table of love LORD God has made for us although God’s lovingkindness far surpasses the best a family can offer its members because kingdom family members will appear in places you did not expect. Ephesians 2:13 "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ". When you’re far away from someone there’s no way to listen to his or her voice. Over several city blocks the noise of sirens, traffic and pedestrians overpowers the exchange. Seated at the table, even with distant hearts, you’re shoulder to shoulder with a golden lining looking at the head of the table. Being near to the Father enables us to hear the rhythms formed from his vocal chords so that we’re following in motion with an animated soul. When you’re near the reception is crystal clear. His love endures forever.
The supernatural nearness now appearing in my soul has been the most influential intimacy I’ve ever experienced anywhere. My grandma made a hand-written, lovely cursive note affixed with a needle to the backside of the sun visor of her light blue 1980s Oldsmobile, "I plead the blood of Jesus on everybody in and surrounding this vehicle for protection and safety". Over the thousands of miles traveled along continuous strands of yarn, unraveled the calling towards the horizon. Vessels were stalled on the shoulder. Will I make the cut somewhere taught or droopy? That’s all. A ball left to the wayside like a bail of hay; spaced out. What is gathered together will be used. Plied the needle on a turned table. The thrust of the rhythm lifted me to heights previously unknown. Relieved by the beauty of the given gift so that I could once again believe. Set on default mode submerged below the surface on the open road; your needs met. The grey barn stood out from the surrounding clear-cut woods. I disappeared through passing passages, one after another, old to the new. Darkened alleyways, planted utility poles hewn from these trees, partially swept with the light; what could be used piled in a shopping cart. The word arose among the marginal.
Grandma and Grandpa had several months worth of supplies all neatly packed in a hodgepodge collection of suitcases. Some had belt-buckles to close them securely after the zipper made its round around the perimeter. Double plastic grocery bags filled the trunk and backseat of the Oldsmobile as they embarked on the long journey from the Northern Woods to the pristine white beaches of Destin, Florida.
The tire repair shop employee we paid to fix the flat tire on our blue conversion van didn’t fasten the lug nuts securely. Unaware of this fact, we headed North early in the morning before the sun broke the horizon plane. There was a baby palm tree I wanted to take back with me. My ma told me, “How will it survive at home?” The balmy air seasoned with salt like the way my ma added malt to the shakes before the sky was pink. My dad flew home early to coach fast-pitch softball. There were females around me, how else was I supposed to think? Through the tinted bay window view, I admired the string of Fighting Illini football buses that sliced through the water drenched interstate in Alabama. I was safe and dry until the back left tire popped off the axel. My ma swerved off the interstate. We slammed into a muddy median ditch. My sisters and I, shoved forward, screamed in high-pitches until we realized: we’re all okay squeezed tightly inside the soft leather glove. Grandma’s replicated note seems to float beyond what she initially composed.
Bravery was made in quiet reflections as the arrows pointed toward directions like flashes of light on reflectors. Figuring the signaling. Trusting God’s promises placed peace in the dramatic structure. Disorientated by the turbulence of steeped unbelief, the deceiver stealthily crept with tools to tamper with the foundation of my faith. I kept with the course. The plans provided moments where the redeeming thought comes like a song; I’m glad I stayed. The highway to heaven—the final destination are soundtracks of listening to audible prompts and then those accompanying written lines that have appeared each step of the way.
There is divine inspiration behind the picture of Isaiah 7:14-15. These meanings filled slowly like spring water within my inner being as I read these passages. Passed through caves into the marvelous light. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will eat butter and honey when he knows enough to refuse the evil and choose the good.”
For many years, hours and a time carried by the spirits of charm to harm, I lit evil’s fuse with a mechanical spark wheel. Refused to refuse. The images exposed by the fire works, were instruments of wickedness. Kept out of tune for righteousness by keeping bad notes. Destroy the works in the dark room. The image of the invisible made me a living stone to break the manacles with his righteousness. Not my own. Now, in the courtyard, building an eternal fire with my carnal cut, timber, logs and kindling; never mind your splinters.
Before it’s banned, I’ve fanned the flame, the gift of God, and a faith quality for the followers of the name above all names. Never be the same. Stick to it. Stick to it. Stick to it. The wind has blown to intensify the bark’s encrusted glowing gold; over taken in those moments. The vipers are driven out like rockets of poisonous fangs onto my hands. The accusers are shook off into the good book’s fire. Enough of me, it can drop dead. The toxins of sin defeated by the blood; purification by fire—unharmed. No stench of smoke. My hands were healed on the detour to destiny by the seal of the Spirit.
Prayers rose beyond skies into the heavens where they are heard in herds. The Father takes care of me with the endless supply of glorious riches generously given through Jesus, the Savior of his world. His planning before it all began made it all happen; dissuaded any happenstance. As a boy, before I awoke where dreams were the doubles of baseball cards in spokes, I spun backwards tightly in a flip position. I tilted my head backwards to see if I could watch how I was created in God’s image. And before that? And before that? And before that? The slow rotation evoked sensitive questions and I was impressed by His answer: He was always there. He crocheted my unceasing soul with fibers of faith. The universe was filled with many more of which Jesus was the first born over all creation.
We never know what the Lord has in store for us. Implore Immanuel for more. The options are clearer than before, soberly walking beyond where I had been. Ornate theaters, like the Mayan and Belasco hosted my former plays, musicals and club blasters, smashed behind draperies of the dome echoed bewildering drums, flutes, pianos and saxophones. Swirled faster and higher with women around the world like winds around the world trade center; couldn’t see the cross until my existence collapsed floor by floor well beyond the years it was initially erected.
Plaster decorations on the inside designed by man’s skill were primitive civilization’s objects of worship; unresponsive idols. Looked a little closer: pagan carvings etched by scanned human hands were my own idols on display. Nightly temples of hypnotic temptation with gaudy designs richly trained the haughty to follow trends until their spent. Before the transformation, moving through these hallways and staircases, stumbling toward my demise reminded me of my ruptured hollow body. Spirits taunted me. Haunted houses creaked: you’ll never be rescued; you’ll never be renovated. You’ve been forgotten in flesh. Searching for the life in the nocturnal could not be found; the midnight oil burned and the cream cranked and dashed in the butter churn. The conversion was not a plunge. The Spirit rushed in and caused me to fall to my knees upon the marbling on the carpeting. The rescue of love vaulted off the highest Springboard. The proof of the Lord’s sacrificial act showed me I could be his wondrous offspring; commanding kindness brought me out of my faults; flaunting and fleeting into the urban turn about.
My grandpa fired-up his strong running navy blue, 1979 Ford F-150 Ranger XLT, every Saturday morning to round up bulging black trash bags. If you were going to ride to the enormous sandpit then you helped pull the trash out of silver trash cans beside each of the sixteen white clapboard-sheathed cabins. He drove the oval pathway, slowly over the sunk-in gravel that split between where the families stayed on the right and the fish house and a towering multi-level boat repair shop on the left. My sisters and I would lift up the Master lock and unlocked the latch to the front door. We climbed around metal tool sets and yellow minnow floaters set on the pizza slice stairway winding its way to the second level. At the top, we’d open up the double doors. We sat down to look around at the widespread and well-watered greenery. Our legs swung forward with excitement for where we found ourselves.
Sparse collections of fallen brown pine needles lay on the cabin’s rooftop peaks. Speedboats laid down the throttle control all the way horizontal a few feet past the ‘No Wake’ buoy. The upside down ‘V’ pattern split apart the lake like a pair of orange handle scissors across wrapping paper. Grandpa heard us giggling up there. He told us to close the doors and come down to finish our chores. I picked an acorn I found under the truck. We headed out, heavy laden cargo stuffed and puzzled together in the truck bed, steadily around the gravel turnabout down Eagle Park Lane to Chain O’Lakes Road. Then I lost track of the other woods roads where the hills rose and gradually and steeply fell with no yellow stripes. This trip was known as, ‘The trip to the dumps’. The first whiff of pollution from drifting plumes fleeing the incessant burn was like unrestricted spirits with nowhere to return. There was only a fourth of a mile to go near the bottom of the searing belly.
We pulled up to the edge of the deeply dug sandpit hidden in the middle of the wilderness. An old man appeared out of the plumes of grey smoke from the big burn wearing faded denim clutched a wooden pitchfork. He leaned against it as he dispensed the material order as the keeper of the incineration pit. He directed my grandpa to back up the truck as close as we could get to the cliff’s edge without going over. My personal fear was plummeting off the rickety verge. Fire constantly burned heaps of trash and smoke settled over the clear-cut area like early morning fog. There were piles of used appliances in one area and junk in others. When grandpa switched from reverse into park it was the cue to get out. I jumped into the bed of the truck and tossed the stinky plastic over the edge. The beat up broom was uncovered with only a few more black bags to toss over. Then I’d sweep off the bed of the truck. Years later I have seen the need to take multiple trips to the dumps so that I can offload the parasite filled garbage in my life as I pass through the valley of weeping. The eternal strength enables me to ever last, not bailing my vessel for less than my value, until appearing before God in Zion.
The work was mixed amusement parked in humor. The leaky gasoline scent filled the cabin as the wind swirled inside mixing with the waste odor. Our light bodies tossed about on the bench seat by the exhilarating speed. My grandpa pushed on the pedal to make our stomachs drop in the lull of the street beneath the towering forest greenery. Laughter unceasing as we cried, ”Not again grandpa!” The soul trusted with windows rolled all the way down. My hands thrusted toward bushy pine needle clusters further than an arm’s length away. The tall pine trees lining Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles conjured up the adventure to the dumps like sap seeping out of the rings within the tree of life. Along the way, the former places are being made into springs.
These venues tucked away in obscurity, made legendary by peoples’ pledges, are reminiscent of advanced underground dancing, sound seeking never fatiguing; tweeters spoke of the heaven sent in Chelsea and Triangle Below Canal. Deep rolling lows kept the character arc in the domain of darkness. Shelters of sweltering skin half exposed half shadow moved to their own stage directions. Fabrications welded together with molten metal. These temples of my integral idols enveloped my vitals, signs with pure and unbound record recitals where for moments at a time I’d ‘be myself’ and return to the maze, lost in spaces. Turntables floating on coiled springs were controlled by a shadowy figure barely visible by a soundboard light while he mixed the secular plates; he slid the fader to side and rotated the gain, fluid in the veins were raised into the sacred; cut back in the low ends like the prophetic fulfillment. Now my temple bears another name; permanently identified by Christ. Full ownership by the Father, no longer leased by lies, I’m not my own. No longer hiding. The soul cried out in the middle of the night like a siren in the city from the force of the hot iron. Another rescued from thefts. The price has been paid so I see the venues and temples are filled with the body, deposited with the Holy Spirit. This is what I’ve seen first hand; one account. Be glorified in this temple. The blood of the Lamb enables me to stand. It’s easier to choose the good once you’ve been through the abuse. Faith fused with new understanding. Reclaimed wood from the wild now fine-grain sanded smooth. We are his workmanship. Walk through the storehouse, lost in amazement, step after step, found on display magnifying the name on stages of endless possibilities. No other gods before me.
The Lord himself, nobody else, perfect in all his ways—acted, left his comfort zone, on our behalves to bestow a sign from above to below. End goal: to see his children grow. He gave us the sign. We were hopeless even blinded by ourselves, but then the light let us see his long-range plans. He lavished love upon us. The scripture picture in Isaiah although not initially written about Jesus Christ serves a new era and meaning since the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. God is with us. He’s rooting for us in a space where our noses would bleed. Pursuing us with embedded cues and somehow always ahead to position his people with specific coordinates and appointments.
Again the Lord spoke to us over ripe crescent-shaped cantaloupe and thin shaved prosciutto. The Creator of the heavens and earth is speaking to us in surpassing ways. His body language has loved us. We lend our attention often to undeserving persons, places or things instead, but our breach has been reconciled in His wide reach. Taste and see that the Lord is good. This is the journey to believe what he said, to understand what we misunderstood, to see how He is the head. There’s nothing that could ever behead his authority seated at the right hand of God Almighty.
A personal notion and a hip motion progress to uncover. Another arena and interaction brings you to see a little bit more. Then you drop off and turn away; too salty. Devotion becomes diluted until he gives us his concentrated presence so that our blossom ends have a sweet aroma. Fibers unraveled and sown into extravagant faith. Heartbeats bulge behind the seams. We refuse to ask for a sign. We refuse to entreat when he’s holding a treat behind his back. Which hand? We refuse to ask for a sign even when the Lord our God prompts us. “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” God is amused as we say, “I will not ask, I will not put the Lord to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will eat butter and honey when he knows enough to refuse the evil and choose the good.” Buttermobile is a call to action to refuse evil and choose the good in your ever-maturing walk by faith.
Hear now, now that my God has allowed time for you to listen for the sign. In our rebellion, each going their way, God has considered our destructive path and put a divine detour to bring us through from death to life. He has kindly acted on our behalf for his glory. Mind bender.
Received love from the sender. He uses all expedients for our obedience. As we enter his courts from the way, there’s nothing to do but render thanksgiving and shouts of praise. For it is scripted. The final cut made. The surpassing power belongs to God and not us. By his Spirit he brings us into his presence. The Breather of Life gives us abundant life for his namesake and not to take away life like the deceiver. He does not drop us, but adopts us; drops a line to tell you, you’re mine. Grace extends more and more so that our thanksgiving will increase to the glory of God.
Spreading The Promise
The response from New York University was pulled from a blue mail pouch and placed into the mailbox of my childhood home in the form of a letter. My ma handed it off to me and I headed into the bathroom to take a dump. My expectations were high because of the consistent hours of study put forth learning new words on 3 by 5 note cards and studying the Graduate Record Examinations book for several months before I took the test in downtown Chicago, Illinois. I believed graduate school was the next step in my life. The momentum formed by years centered on education and historical lure made me desire more after my undergraduate work at Messiah College and Temple University around the eastern seaboard.
As I tore the seal, I thought living among the people of the village would create dynamic opportunities for deep storytelling. Holding still, I opened the tri-folded letter inside my hands, the tearing noises mounted more anticipation. Plainly, it started with an apology. The New York door rapidly closed. The vertical sets of dead bolts locked in rapid succession one after the other. I was left exposed wondering what am I going to do? How does it feel when there’s no movement? It’s not going to be all plush and quilted. My circular plan was immediately flushed. Until I heard from the only other university I applied to which was located on the opposite side of the country, it would require waiting longer. Either way, when I finished washing my hands clean, I knew I still had the movement to be thankful for even though my excitement quickly turned for the worse like a nor’easter at sea.
The erosion had washed away half my plans. A month had gone by and one day I was writing in a lawn chair with a bubbly cushion in the backyard. My blondish-brunette hair had grown far past conformity. The late afternoon sunlight shined in front of the secret passageway to the park behind my home through a wide section of tall trees; plowed farmland now a divine dell. My ma yelled out to me, a typical form of communication in my family, that I received a package from the University of Southern California. So I quickly ran through the yard onto the patio and up the porch steps and she handed me the large white envelope with the school’s seal on the top right corner. Given what happened to the last letter I opened I said, “I’m going to go open it alone in my room.” She told me, “No, open it here with me.” So I ripped open the seal and this is what I read, “Dear Kevin, We are pleased to inform you of your acceptance into the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California. You should receive official notification from the Graduate Admissions office shortly.” My ma and I embraced inside the kitchen for the adventure now set in motion. God favored me to inhabit the golden state of warm temps; the directions clear. Winter exemptions granted inside California’s prominence.
The accident I survived in Rifle, Colorado was a story written long ago. Chosen before the foundations of the world, the narrative existed there in eternity, where I would return once made whole by the Author who allowed the word to live within my scroll.
(Read Measurement 5 & 6)
I can believe it’s not butter. It’s not about butter to be quite honest. Buttermobile has been churning in my life. The prepackaged metaphor came about since I purchased an Audi S4 from Maxim, a wealthy Russian immigrant, who lived in Westwood. He operated the technology division of a flower business. Once I signed paperwork at the USC Credit Union to buy the twin turbo-charged German sports sedan, Maxim and I walked out to the parking lot and he said, “See it’s easy to find.” I thought to myself, “Just as it said on the description on Cars.com.” His wife said, “Enjoy your new car.”
The fixation to modify came from my first visit to see Mark at Advanced Motorsport. He created Advanced Motor Sport to give Porsche, Audi and Volkswagon cars more power with longevity in mind, helped by Jesse the Irishman with flaming red hair and Julio the Guatemalan. The performance shop was located in an industrial park located in Carson, California. It’s where East Bedmar Street and Belshaw Avenue meet off the 405 South Avalon Blvd exit. We kicked it at the shop and I quickly accelerated money into its go-fast business. The lures were there: a big screen television to play video games, an espresso maker and other customer’s cars that have been modified from stock into a beasty sleeper. Affix the downpipes and exhaust to be thrown back into the seat harder. The simple sports sedan transfigured into a golden calf. What makes its way to our center, as the world turns, ends up bluntly knocked off center by the rod and staff of true comfort.
Get the fix, rapidly accelerating from Jefferson as the light turned green going between neon Felix ‘The Cat’ and the construction of the Galen Center, underneath the 110, a concrete sound chamber. As I rounded right on Hope Street, there was a man who snuggly slept between the streetlight and a utility pole. All the way down to the USC parking garage I’d race up the ramps to hear the turbo spool and the pipe’s growl. Alongside the competitor, take another pull, sometimes you lose and this time it’s a W. Wind around downtown Los Angeles’ building showcases then through the tunnels tagged with paint, up the 5 to the 2 past La Cañada. Aggressive turning through the hairpin turns between the cliff’s terminal edge and jagged rocks keep the beat of the pioneer’s route to observe the Mount Wilson valley view like a bowl of gleaming gold. This is not a travel guide, it’s where I ended up on a tank of village pride. The dry heat of the day brings at night another type of cold not found in Illinois.
East Bedmar Street and Belshaw Avenue formed a perfect oblong rectangle for use as a street track to test the high-priced breathability parts and specialized labor costs. Mark showed me what my car could really do with proper handling; so I sat in the passenger side. Whether it was my car or others like it at the shop, the qualifying numbers of performance were like stimulants to access how to get adrenaline drums to run.
The cost of speed bred irresponsibility. Over spending. Over speeding. Z-rated rubber meets the road, but I’m still pretending. The hydraulic platform lift held up ‘my way’ to get around with an aggressive sound. Ol’ blue eyes. The Buttermobile was raised upon a pedestal, its racing wheels hanging below the shiny body until released downward to a minimal wheel well stance. The Audi threads supported the ‘knowledge-based’ pursuit to go fast: canyon runs, drag racing, Buttonwillow and highway pulls. The treasure shining under the florescent lights while the twin turbo-chargers were replaced. The stock twin-turbos blew a white smoke screen for miles over the street like a white evening gown. Passing threads shimmered under the honey moon. Speak now or forever hold your peace. Buy bigger turbo-chargers after the failure. This is advancement. Fix it for the fix.
Over the years, what I became an enthusiast for slowly dimmed although the vehicle was bright yellow. The values depreciated. Hugo, my close friend, introduced me to the car-centered lifestyle of Los Angeles. You end up liking what your friends like. Inside the graduate assistant cubicle on the 5th Floor of the Rossier School of Education the car search to replace my totaled car became more advanced from Hugo’s recommendations. The Golf is compact for the city, but if you want something more get the GTI. Audi’s are even more luxurious like my A4, but if you want a fast version of my car try the S4. His train of thought led me to the performance platform where the yellow one stood out from the rest like Richard Scarry’s ‘goldbug’. It wasn’t, really me. Let’s see what happens. The meanings worked together from the beginning.
After a night of raging at UCLA law student’s birthday party, I drove back to South LA down La Brea. A group of attractive ladies in the car next to me liked how I could keep up and speed ahead from 3rd Street to Wilshire to 12th Street. Just before San Vincente Blvd, two red lights appeared in my rearview mirror like a haunting visitation. The girls were long gone. Everything was wet and glossy. The police officer said, “You’re going a little too fast weren’t you.” I replied, “I sped up to impress the ladies in the other car, but nothing more than how I would normally drive.” He stayed silent for a moment as I looked into his eyes from a seat of luxury. He replied, “You’re fucked up aren’t you?” I didn’t say a word. He said, “I could cite you for speeding, but Fight On, get home safely.”
Another time, a dime lady named Jahmai, picked me up from 28th and Orchard partially on the Helena Apartments narrow parking entrance. She introduced me to the hot and sweet BBQ chicken at Phillip’s in Leimert Park. The way she sweetly removed the excess sauce off her slender honey brown fingers made me glad to be beside her. I learned she was in a Queen Latifah video. She was sweet and caring toward me. I almost slammed into the back of a parked car on Fairfax Avenue, just south of Little Ethiopia, for trying to speed around another fast car to my left as the road bottlenecked to one lane. She invited me to her Christian group at USC, “Higher Learning”. The neglect, my ways unchecked, had consequences in other areas of my life so much so that when I saw my folly upon the “Wicked” Motorsports’ invoice. The itemized billing for each part and labor cost were like links in the chain. The heavy metal was pulled across the line of my irresponsibility into the generosity of another. Phone a family member like one call a month for help. I could sense the wickedness of my ways moving like shadows commanding decisions in my heart.
Like my lead foot, my capricious spending habits seemed unlimited within a student salary cap. Quick swipes like the quick draws of a Western gunslinger. The disbursements were lawless. The charge went through like a zero-to-sixty trap time. Four seconds. Several laps past the formation laps, I drove dangerously fast. Let me have it like that.
A portion of the money loaned to my identity went to the LA Superior Court to pay for tickets slash performance parts. A wicked cycle. Pleasing the senses formed my life sentence.
Off to the shoulder, pick the road/highway, you may have seen me pulled over. The LED blue and red lights flashed like concert lighting in my rear view mirror. Conversations with the police officer went something like the first ticket in the Buttermobile on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. The second officer witnessed in the blind spot. Pride within the high-end ride, humbled by the authority. After a party in a mansion with my USC friends, my friend’s boyfriend and I went for a morning cruise to see what it could do.
About five miles into the twenty-seven total miles of scenic beauty, I switched into polite mode. Maybe I can get out of this. …Do you know how fast you were going? 80-something in a sixty-five zone. Highway 1 is the most dangerous stretch of highway in the United States. Yes, but the exhilaration from a well-engineered, all-wheel drive car, Global Underground music and the illusion of me—altered my vision. No, I’m not a marine. My license plate USCMPW stands for: The first three letters mean the private university in Southern California started in 1880. The chess pieces positioned at the campus walkway entrances ready to check mate. A couple of names define the school by acronyms of location and student types. The University of South-Central. The school is actually not in South-Central because that area is South of downtown Los Angeles and East of the 110 Freeway. Spoiled Children and Second Choice fit my story the best. Master of Professional Writing is my luxury degree. You could argue if it was a necessity. What else could I have called the license plate in the calling of my life?
The speeding ticket, in a long line of many, like those who wait in the early morning outside the Los Angeles Superior Court, was written and delivered to the lawbreaker. It’s me. Like a Pacific Coast wave it started from somewhere else as a ripple. One in the movement toward the coast, it swelled, carrying on through this way of life, across vast tracts of trial and error, discovery in the distance—until with great momentum—slams to shore. The mammoth mind collapsed with a great crash. Like whipped cream, the illusions spread out as salty sea foam, scattered and water logged the meanings.
The Buttermobile, like a golden calf was on course to melt before God. At 80 miles per hour I slammed into a truck tire horizontally lying in the center lane of a smooth Arizona interstate while traveling to a film festival in Waller, Texas. Little did I know the sub frame broke and oil slowly leaked out. The festival organizer bought a portrait I captured of Cato Williams holding his BBC Ice Cream Skate Team skateboard necklace. ‘Graphic Underside’ was one of my large photographic prints that went on sale to be spent on gasoline to get back to California.
What follows are excerpts from my thought log. “Lord, thank you for this moment to express my gratitude toward your lovingkindness toward me. As you become the focus, the world becomes the Bohka. Lovingkidness made visible. Tomorrow I pick up my print, “Old Skool” from Jacob at Advanced Photo Lab by noon to meet with Paul to deliver the 20 x 30 print of Ray his son. Then go with Ron Chatman to skate @ Channel Street underneath the freeway. Selling your prints in mint condition to those who are interested is one thing, but time spent with Ray Olsen gave me a depth of insight into the Southern California skateboarding community from his first hand experiences. Ray told me to look up Daniel Harold Sturt. What I discovered about how his own mortality keeps him focused on own faith…and how it’s horrible to die and tragic to die without being in right relationship with God in Christ.
Sunday morning I helped Mike Donelon sweep up cigarette butts, candy wrappers and sticker backs at Houghton Park. The power of an image to go from son to a father made a lasting impression in my life by way of the affectionate plans made by the author of my life. I remember when Paul first looked into the trunk of the Buttermobile after having a few Hefe beers at an Irish Pub off Main and his positive reaction to the photo I took of his son Ray. He glided his fingers over the scratches. He gave me a deposit and told me he’d give me the rest when I had it printed. He said, “He’s here to help me.”
Drove to Canoga Park to pick up the print. One hundred dollars in cash I used to pay the charge. I also picked up a portrait of my mom and Mary, her prayer partner of 35 years, to send for her birthday. On the way, 405 North to 101 exhilarating Ventura S-Curve, my oil leaked and leaked in the parking lot. In Long Beach, I met Paul on 100 Atlantic and the doorman had one hundred dollars cash for me. I saw Paul before he went to jury duty. He said call him Tuesday and we’ll have lunch near LAX. On the way home Ron said he couldn’t meet so I exited Willow West.
My education, more costly than combined consumer debt doesn’t slow my interest in the written down word to bring me up, plus metered interest is a woe with consideration to what is owed. The city of Los Angeles’ towed my car, the one you can’t miss. Initially when my car was not where I parked it on 28th and Orchard I thought it was stolen by a local. It made total sense in South LA. However, the disregarded tickets on the windshield frequently placed by parking maids and stored in the glove compartment summoned a flatbed to tow it away. You want the best for your belongings. There’s a spot in the palm’s shade where its fruits have fallen and rolled into place.
110 North underneath the cathedral columns before you get to downtown Los Angeles I decided to drive to LA Car Guy to have my car inspected. Audi means listen. Each time I started my car within the driver’s seat I kept listened to the extended beep of the extremely low oil sensor. A short lady who’s worked there for 16 years inspected my car twice. Sold my DVD to her. She said, “I owe you 15.” With two crystal geysers I walked to Alamo car rental. An SUV was $160.00. Clearly most of those rates were beyond my grasp.
I waited until 10 p.m. when Hugo showed up. They wouldn’t allow Hugo to use his debit card for any vehicle. I slept in Pasadena or ‘Dena that night on Los Robles and Jackson. All these challenges made me think about what it’s like to live and die in LA. Woke up in the morning and had a half of a tuna melt from Hagel Burgers on Claremont Graduate University campus from Hugo. He drove me to Rent-A-Wreck. It was $300.00 dollars to rent a late model Corolla with a noisy exhaust. It was comfortable. It would be my transportation for a month.
I was literally late to Act 1 like a movie, but I made it on time. Located off the 101 behind the inverted mirrored windows is where the job offering began. Each time I went to the offices for a paycheck there was a reminder the pit viper coiled up beside me. The venom in your veins is painful like pangs when the fangs of vivid entertainment have bitten you. Living in freedom of Christ is different than the freedom of a flag. John Ortberg’s message remains in my memory of the serious trouble when you have to release the pit vipers from your hands.
Veronica told me the first day for Neilson survey on 7.5 ounce mini cans that “How obviously smart you are! Those in our business have what I call an extra alertness to them, if you will.” I took the Hollywood freeway into Echo Park. At the Vons I met four teachers in the aisle in between the long stretched cooler of yogurt and cheese and an equally wide shelves of sugar water. One kid was dealing with heroin use. Jesus deliver him. An unemployed 27 year old. A retired couple. A screenwriter. A German gentleman who is a security guard. Two girls from FIDM. Danielle with a 6.0 Nike shirt and her friend Karen who were very pretty.
I clutched a clipboard in the chilly aisle where all the action happened. A guy named Sam told me “There’s an extra spark with Kevin.” I won a bet with Hugo that if the Chargers lost to the Patriots he’d have to wash and vacuum my car. I haven’t washed my car for at least two weeks. God how do I overcome my urges for satisfying my flesh? I’m trying to be good, but I’m not good. God I am sluggish and have been not exercising. My prayer life is in the pits and I don’t know you as well as I should. Help me now.
Thank you for the four-day assignment at Von’s. The unemployment award of $3,404.00 I received yesterday, plus the phone interview at DIT Survaillence and the interview tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. The opportunity from Anna also is nice because she’ll let me cut a reel for an awards ceremony. Brent will give me the footage on Wednesday. Lord, forgive me of my time wasting, procrastinating, lust for women, miss management of my money and everything else I disregard or fail to see. Lord are you going to help me write a blockbuster like Mike Daniel’s used to tell me every time I’d walk into his apartment at USC. Do I need a 5D? Lord, thank you for grandma’s $1,000.00. You know I need it and for Mary Miller’s restoration from cancer. Lord help her with the port and maximum strength. Lord replenish my waste with your glory. The Holy Spirit was there at Rent-A-Wreck because my friend helped me when I was in need. The sunlit dust particles inside the office separated spatially was like when I saw my grandma pass from the earth to heaven in her simple nursing home room. God was saying he’s here. Do not be afraid and I created you out of the dust matter.
Francis Salenga confirmed an interview with Kaiser Permanente for the proofreading position. I spoke with Jolene Reschly for about 40 minutes. Her name struck me because of the Live 365 classic country station I listened to at Underwriter’s Laboratory in Northbrook, Illinois. Dolly Parton has a song Jolene. She said she’s had that song sung to her a couple of times. Mule Skinner Blues is another song I used to push paper to. Prevencion y Rescue $1.00 Sopes, Tamales, Jamaica instead of monstrous burrito. Girl held up Goose’s skateboard. Pointed to it like he forgot his skateboard. The bump on Alameda and 6th next to the American Apparel Factory outlined with chain links and blue wavy tarps. Gustavo performed a manual on the cement ledge with oval sun circles framed above. Charlie looking over the city with his hands holding the chain link fence.
Sept. 27th. Text message from Prema Cruz. Undate on the job search. I had nothing to report back except Netflix rescheduled from Friday at 1:30 p.m. to Wednesday at noon. I ate my cereal and took a banana and orange to 4th and Montana. Then I slipped on my Grado Labs headphones. I took off walking until I got to the Santa Monica stairs jig-jagging down the cliffs facing the breaking Pacific Ocean. I jogged northward past the large tracts of empty beaches.
I stopped at an area with a lifeguard station, wave conditions, Baywatch boat with Hawaiian license plates on the trailer and a pull-up bar wrapped with trainer’s tape over the rusted horizontal bar just before the beach begins down a steep and eroded dirt hill. Earthmovers and a water truck wetting the bulldozer’s tracks repeated courses to make roads of the mountainsides. My mom used to take me to see these construction marvels as a kid. It didn’t cost anything. She said I liked the green ones. On a concrete bench I received a call from a 310 number from Beverly Hills. Sweaty, sun-soaked and dusty. Rose and Francis called me to say congratulations you got the Kaiser Permanente job. I felt like love was being orchestrated over me. Waves swelled and hung until they curled forward into white wash. People jogged and cycled by on the Pacific Coast Highway trail. I was in the game again. Boy to man memory. Supply all my needs according to his riches in glory. My mom wants to see me. Obama gave us an acknowledgement letter for on the grind. Anna asked me when will I get the 5D so I can film soon?
Lord move your Spirit with Leah Johnson at the at-risk youth school in Highland Park. Save these teenagers. Keep them from the false faiths. Give Leah the edge. Kaysha commutes with a Jewish man. Lord reveal Jesus to this man. My father needs your irresistible grace. Lord help me perform well on this new interview with Netflix. Lisa V. to get a job soon at USC. Kelly D. to have no more kidney stones. Katie R. with her studying, pharmacy technicalities and vernacular balanced with other duties. Isaiah to stop weed and drinking. Rachel to know Christ in a real and awesome way, and wisdom from the only wise God. Yeshua.
Lord, I thank you for my phone and a paid off car. Help my car at LA Car Guy to get fixed properly and paid for all by Progressive. Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. I took a drug test off La Cienga and Withword. I thought it was a temple with mezzuzas and kepas. A happy cup of urine from all the exercise and water. I gave a dollar to a man picking at his feet along the trail on a cement bench. Another testing facility that was closing directed me to the one on Withword. The lady told me to come back to see them. Ed was from Long Beach. Lord bless them and save them. Love them and help them at their job. Strength and wisdom for my mom and family. Heal them and allow your Spirit to move for the gospel in their arenas of life.
Dear God I find myself at another crossroads in my life. An opportunity to leave the high performance costs with my B5 S4 Imola in the past and walk toward a future with a future with a Progressive check to buy a Canon Mark II 5D camera. Happening for a reason. Ms. King told me she secured a screening at V.I.P. Records on Oct. 14th. I would like to film it and create dope footage. The photos I took of Gustavo and Becky were inspiring to me.
I know the Buttermobile served its purpose for the years I’ve had it to transport film equipment for the documentary and skaters packed inside to master their flip tricks. The lowered suspension dipped lower and caused exhaust system to grind against passing asphalt. Would it grind to a halt? Along the way making mistakes by trying for more torque and horsepower and maintaining a killer body became tiresome. Sept. 29th A chance to break from the past. Cracks began to show. Leah said come in Monday to fill out an application at Optimist. Stop the cycle of fallen worship. Chance to be a filmmaker written down on a paper tablet in the outside seating area with Mike S. on Hoover and Jefferson. We met for breakfast this morning at the Denny’s door. The girls at Career Group laughed when I said I came to their office building for the view. “He’s awesome,” they said as they giggled. There’s a chance to get a decent laptop and car. Two jobs. One confirmed. “Are you going to be a racecar driver or a filmmaker? I’ll support you through both. Well it looks like you have your answer,” said Carl Bogan. The car wasn’t me. Refine things. Transportation with luxury verses meaningful work. Twin turbo functionality can only boost you so far. Access to a constant spool of peace in my mind by getting rid of the golden calf that constantly required more melted gold to be added to the body and addressing my true needs with the only wise God who sees and hears; not an idol that holds power only by its title.
Mike S. got a Volvo V70 from a Jewish guy in Hermosa Beach. Jordie, the studio manager at DLC West said, “He’d write a letter to say you’re the best intern in the fucking world.” At the reigns. Jordie had a V70 too. I parallel parked it for him a couple of times after I returned from some last minute runs. Oct 2nd. Phillipians bible study. The last Thursday of September. Kelly made salad, pasta, bread, vegetables and dessert. We chowed down. I was full and continued to pack in more brownies with sea salt. Mr. Beans tugged violently on his stuffed animals. Paul and Timothy “servants” of Jesus Christ. The most important beginning is serving one another in love. Prayer for fellow Christians. Walked around the block with Kelly and Mr. Beans.
I looked for a V70 earlier in the day. What you search for appears in real life when I pulled into the Samy’s Camera parking lot and it was the first car I saw. I met Phillip who frequents the store and other Samy’s locations. His speech kept giving me well wishes. I filled up the Rent-A-Wreck at ARCO and then headed to Mission Viejo. The used car salesman didn’t allow me to take the V70 to the Swedish Mechanic with the cute Asian receptionist. I saw a yellow Volvo V70R in a non-working condition. The used car salesman was from Kuwait and moved to Egypt and from Egypt to the Mid-west. He said the only difference with the USA is with football. He told me, “I don’t want you to waste your time here.”
In a flustered state of mind I called Progressive Insurance – Claims. Ashley took my call. In the parking lot of some corporate office below a tree providing shade from the hot sun she consoled me. She said she could do a supplemental check in addition to the thousands I received as a direct payout for the totaled condition of the Buttermobile left behind in the care of LA Car Guy. Later I found some receipts for the downpipes, OCT Boost Gauge and K04 turbo. Lord, I hope to get thousands more. I mailed it to her on Saturday. I sent Adam’s book back to him in Texas. I drove to Power Volvo. They said, “Which car is yours?” The salesmen were discriminating on my Rent-A-Wreck. After Kelly’s house bible study I forgot the watermelon she gave me.
The next day I met with Anthony Gallo, an artist like myself with a blue tie and black suit job at Chase Bank in Pasadena. Colorado and Arroyo Parkway. Very sincere and wants to renovate houses to his designs and resell them. He withdrew thousands in the form of one hundred dollar bills. He counted them for me on the desk. Then shuffled them. Asked if I wanted an envelope. When Anthony handed me the payout it was like being set free from the Buttermobile, the golden calf with no stronghold upon me.
No longer boast in boost, the twin turbo whistle was put to rest. It’s time to put my mind to use by the new wind through the design like notes of wind chimes. I met Alex an Armo-Argentinian on Friday morning. I decided not to buy from a Muslim, instead I went with my gut for the better deal. Samy’s on Fairfax Avenue is where we met in the parking lot from a Craigslist connection and not brick ‘n mortar. He said, “He thought I would be Korean.” The security guard said I didn’t need a sticker for the 5D to get it tested for functionality. The repair employee looked up the serial number and said it was made in the last four months. It had one hundred actuations. He gave me a lens and I took some photos. It worked! Back in the parking lot Alex said he thought I’d be Korean. When I handed him the thousands he said I looked trustworthy and not a counterfeiter. So there’s no need to go to the bank.
After I told my mom I bought the camera from Alex I went onto JetBlue Mobile to find a $99.00 one-way flight to Chicago. On 9th and California I parked my Rent-A-Wreck for church. We sang our God is Able. I felt the Holy Spirit as we worshiped. I spoke with Kevin who is the first guy I connected with about kingdom minded talk. Then I walked with Matt to Yankee Doodle for the after party. Leah let me ride her bike. On Oct 4th I wrote God is my provider. He showed me his care by allowing the maximum for my supplemental check from Progressive Insurance. I deposited the check into my Chase account with my last paycheck from the soda survey at Von's. God answered my G-Drive hard drive recovery ned from Salvage Data. Richard Santamaria did the full amount on my card. It saved me quite a bit of money. It was a little bit more than a grand to recover my drive that James crashed. God restored me and all the photos I took along the way on the 2010 Extreme Tour.”
Somewhere along the brown pulverized powder trails, Steve Kay, the Dean of the Dana and David Dornslife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences will dissolve the Master of Professional Writing Program with a snakebite on my brain training. The puncture wounds on my index finger could lead to my treatment. The ambush on the advanced degree has turned off the heat. Suck it up on cold, clammy skin. Shaking and freezing. I’m a bachelor. I’ve been mastered into slavery by pushers of information; pay us back. Kept stationary in chains; Jesus in our intimacy review my case. Breakthrough these chains with just one touch; come rushing wind unhindered. The educational reasons for moving to Southern California may not have been my initial reasons. I signed my initials here, and here and here. There. Your thoughts not my thoughts. You understand me from afar. You brought me near by how you bought my soul. The price is right. Their gift is not mine. The seasons have changed like the institution's dedicated buildings. The winds blow through the campus rustling the leaves' collection. The donors' organs rise and fall in rank according the development of the pitch. Blown out of the world's riches by the wind system from the tops of the Romanesque steeples for accelerated growth of my soul.
Californiacation: as an act of redeeming. He brought me here first by admission. Selected out of a bunch to pursue a mission; a workers crunch. My story, examining your ways to make them mine, is one for the rebirth of the nations. I believe now that I’ve come to my senses by these unending lessons of love.
The Trojan tradition and allegiance is passing away as I look toward the fullness of life in Christ. By his cardinal blood, I’m refined gold. Unsearchable riches not found by tin can satellites. Your surpassing greatness is not depreciating by wear and tear. Your surpassing greatness is freely breathing wisdom and understanding not by credit hour. The scripture altered a bit to salute my alma mater:
1 Peter 1:18 “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as ‘cardinal’ and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:”
Now I’m set apart by garments of salvation and garments of ever glorious praise. The precious pints of Christ's blood has been sprinkled upon my soul; the party intensifies with each measure of the four to the floor thuds.
The Buttermobile is gone and the metaphor of faith remains. Story driven content rapidly advances through simple means like a childhood storybook, luxurious yellow vehicle and a prophetic passage of scripture.
Mel Shavelson as we drove the 101 North’s steep incline up and over the Hollywood Hills one night he said, “This car has a lot of go, as long as you got somewhere to go”. (Insert Mel’s Note)
Hugo and I pulled up the slope at an angle at the Del Rey Car Wash on 4th and Obispo. It’s a moment when the Omega overseer is present again. There are stalls made of ocean blue concrete squares. Graffiti covered by rectangular shades of blue. The past sunset glow across the sky of pastel wonder. Silhouettes of power lines, buildings and palm trees pop out like puppets in the toxic purple stream. The power washers in holsters are there ready to go. The detail work proved better than paying another person to do a regular job for more money. You cannot learn alone. This is being a steward. The preferred method is the act of refinement by swirling and mysterious handiwork, polished and put together whole by the perfect God that I have kindly acknowledged.
Buttermobile’s third premise, an act of refinement—came to be by this seemingly mundane chore: The act of refinement happened when Hugo took the clay-bar out of the plastic packaging and broke it into two pieces; one for the each of us. Teaching of the hands, check the clay-bar if you drop it. Now wash off the gritty asphalt. Reform the clay and get back to it. Counter the oxidation, microscopic black soot and toxins like clockwork yellow. Countless circles, varying in size, made by thrusting big shoulders, over and over, and a firm grip. Slowly, it’s beginning to stick. Add more lubricant. When it’s done you see the body in action. How the lights dance upon the glistening polish like fluid choreography; it attracts the elements into one.
The toxic deposits of oxidation and flying black particles affix themselves upon the yellow paint. The power of the air continues to add these layers. Compounding coats make film. A dulled luster at this stage is all the eyes can see until the pupils are shaved with razorblades. A new way. Not your own. An exotic Imola (yellow) paint becomes visible after circular motions of labor with a clay-bar, made the body restorative to the touch. Buttery.
Jesus said, “It is finished”. The insight understood by searching for meaning during my journey has brightly displayed his name in lights: “It is published”. He is the noteworthy light pressing into my American typewriter. Instead of spreading dread and division, let’s smoothly share the eternal life found in Jesus Christ alone. He is the author and finisher of our faith! Spread the promise of eternal life from your kitchen to the aging nations.
The promise remains and I will remember it all the days of my life. Located in Psalm one hundred and two, verse eighteen the testimony of the brethren lives forward: "Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord." Duty instructs me in the book of Deuteronomy: “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth…because I will publish the name of the Lord: Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect.”
"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Hebrews 11:6
"Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints (God’s holy people) in the Light." Colossians 1:12
Grade AA is the highest quality possible depending on the seasonal and regional conditions where butter is churned. Keep the spreadability smooth as it were in room temperature. Use for whatever state your needs require. Carrying flavors by faith makes the life shake out spices. Created things happen before the taste. The goodness in the aftertaste lasts past a lifetime.
A brief biopic about the design's color scheme: the project I worked on inside Anna Marie Horsford's home was nearly complete. She walked down the glass steps of inspiring etched words to invite me to go with her to the DGA. The screenings were free because the membership dues were paid by my friend. Film watching is an experience. The question and answer forum centered around the director brings you into the heart of the creator. Yes, this sounds good! The invitation cued up the previous time spent as a teacher's assistant with award-winning producers, directors and writers for the Academy Series class at USC.
The movement in an electric car was quiet; ever progressing. Going in reverse outside the garage gave another camera view on the exclusive neighborhood. Tabloids stacked on street corners and electronic newsstands promptly pay big bounties for compromising images shot during the buzzing insects' stake out. Celebrity takeout. The cabin filled up with upbeat and jazzy songs that electrified my excitement: like we're really going to the show. Counted as special.
Our conversations were a truthful look into the soul as the whimsical canopy of Griffith Park trees transitioned into the lights and action of the Sunset Strip all the way to the parking attendant she new by name. We walked from the concrete underground structure to inside the theater. Follow me. Specific large b/w production stills of golden age movie sets hung on the wooden walls. Everyone was dressed up. She showed her DGA membership card and we found comfortable crimson seats towards the back. Not too far down. The exit strategy.
What on earth am I doing here? There's a seat for me. A friendship among the capital "I" industry professionals born out of a friendship with a costume tailor named Kevin too. A connection point happened within an all-black choir where my whole soul belted out gospel songs on Sunday deliveries. Identity of being adjoined with the African-American community. Divine development of course. Guiding light. Anna considered my story. She thoughtfully spoke into my life, "filmmaking with compassion." You give with passion. The projected, "Director's Guild of America" logo upon the crimson curtain. The folds shifted the lettering into longer shapes. She asked if I wanted something from the convenience store. I asked for gum. A friendship fills the hollow with your needs met.
The eagle's wings pointed high like hands gliding upon the wind released from the hidden storehouses. Hands reach wide across from birth until now. What type fonts will be impressed upon the rotating ribbon? Recessed lighting like a large domino. The clamor of conversation bounces off the auditorium's ceiling. Anna returns and I moved my backpack saving her seat on the end. She handed me Wrigley's Freedent Spearmint gum. Our time together a constant refreshing and redeeming of time. Adding to another person's life like an aromatic garnish. Please turn off your cell-phones. The retractable crimson curtains inside Theater One at the Directors Guild of America decorate the grand stage. The house lights quickly fade. The feature presentation began as the cone of projector light lit up the acoustic architecture above us like waves created by the trowel over thin-set mortar.
“Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics” CDs booming from my room. A Sony CD Player stacked on a Sony Receiver was the setup on a low-lying laminated wooden shelf. The set-up had dry heat trapped in between the sound machine. Two Fisher three-way speakers with 12-inch subwoofer sat on either side of the black knob volume control like Tikki heads.
“The Tower” bumped the kick-drum and a metered high hat. The clever story placed me on a California prison yard. As a “warrior” I lifted the steel bar with silver plastic weights my dad gave me. The iron red fasteners held the plates in place. My frame of mind adapted the point of view of a cell-mate serving life behind bars. Each line gave me leverage to knowing a little bit more than I knew before. So I “studied the inmates to see who had the power, the whites, the blacks or just the gun tower.” My purchase from Record City had the pay off like suppression delivered by these master of ceremonies. They presided over their regions with their lives on tracks like testimonies stacked on freight trains. They awoke me during the night with their howling horn.
Adrenaline hardened my growing mucles like raw drum machine tracks. The early 90s original gangster rapped through closed door. The conditions in the city raised my mom’s eye brow unbeknownst to me during my get up routine. My biceps balled by gettin’ it down on curls. My sisters rocked the hair-sprayed bangs and long spiral curls. Girls’ sensitivity in my soft blonde proclivities got pushed around by curly-haired ghetto boys. An orchestrated sweep through my assortment of jewel cases like a library of East Coast, West Coast and 5th Ward music by the secret court, my mom confiscated my contraband. Deep in her walk-in closet were top tier communicators kept off the rotation of a laser needle. Although the profanity buffeted my mind what I could find were stories lingering in my soul activating rows of my own textual tinkering. The Advertiser was tightened into a Louisville Slugger girth and held tight with a green rubber band. My hands were blackened by the work of the paper route. My mom circled the neighborhood in a Ford Escort as I tossed out the papers on the blacktop driveways from a backseat filled with printing press rolls. Each house had a chance to gain some savings or piled up while they were away on vacation. Most would agree living here you had it made, but the good news didn’t take root until I left the subdivision.
Plush blue carpeting, fresh water fish tanks lined with neon yellow and pink pebbles surrounded by walls decorated with NFL wallpaper created my comfortable space. Concerned for her son listening to the clever messages rotating abuses of speech, lewd treatment of women and violence influencing my heart and mind my mom said, “Why don’t you go serve in Chicago with Willow Creek via International Ministries if you like city life so much”. Enter Saturday morning Cabrini Green. Operation Strive is the only prior community service I had experience with by planting trees and picking up trash in parks. The Chicago Housing Projects was next level. The charge from my mom was breathed through God Almighty. The trip removed me from affluence so that my heart would grow in love, compassion and understanding in alignment with God.
Go There Chicken
In South Barrington
Palumbo moves the earth
God moves His Spirit
Through the willows
Plunge with grungy
Clothes, paint brushes
And rollers for the metro
Natives call Sha—caw—go
Sponge the colossal
Skrewdriver and a drillbit stopped
Twisting here—long ago—not a tall tale
Center of ill-business—vertical
Burn-outs, celestial beings
Rifle it off the high tower
I was seen before I saw
Arrived in a matchbox van
Along the side red cursive
Representation set in permanent
Tan decals, Willow Creekers
Assembled for details—briefed
Before we entered historic ruins’ secret
Handshakes in awe of broken
Down walls—to spend a whole
Day not on myself—there are
Many shades—get to know my bros
N’ sistas common Genesis tells
The pin holes of light come
From the same Holy Ghost
Sow trust with eye lines
No longer on the out—
Skirts drawn to the
Beat underneath our outfits
Swollen soul out the house
Bowlin’ balls not cooped
Up thunder lanes along
The canal gutter ways
Mother Hen kept me warm
In a place nobody
Speculates to be
The new frontier
Relocate high rise
Sores on soaring real estate
Free range infestation
Politicians plot their demise
For steel n’ glass screwdriver n’ drill bit
Dry clean the ring around the white collar
Stake my claim— on gritty salt
And pepper parking lots
Cross colors for survival
Saturday for the community
Center barred in the basement of candy
Cane units—fried, garlic
Hen’s soul food migrated
For the best—deep south
To the North Side—civil war
Chicago style threatened her existence
Once again, Ploughman’s mustard
Fire proof, but not the hot Hen’s
Ministry—egged on—by the Man
Trimmed and finally
Cabrini alive—as criminals
And the Innocent—died—wrecking ball of the law…
Jesus sent the Comforter here too…
Urban ill—illiterate can’t you read…
The scrawl—girl X and boy X
There are children here they’ve
Learned to step before the night crawl creep
The candy man’s plots have rotted black bones
Piled as high as the cha, cha, cha roofs
Been black balled—still shout to the Top
The small white church sustained
Stray caps upon the stain glass
Caps hit their aim, leaking life
Like the slick behind the slug
Tug on the brother to take cover
From the high powered galleries
No cap salaries—stay fat gangster
Lump sum—ain’t no chump son—
Pump up the volume on the project
Blasters—deadly disasters—no slim
Fast calories—adjust the bass and
Trouble up side A flip over to B
Flipped out over these piping hot
Masters dubbed on four track
Equipment cut with arms and
Hammers all yooz hooked on
Spammers made right quick
Loopy spasms—outcasts still
Eligible for the everlasting, once enemies
The demons are cast out—everybody
Feels funny using the name above all
Names, Jesus, however Mother
Hen’s valor, tailored Purple Heart
Called upon His Holy name before
The cornbread was broken in two
Can I have seconds? Give me a second
Honey; Mother Hen gave everyone
Chances, I reckon—to reconcile
Not wreck these precious childs
Open the door give ‘em the keys
Give ‘em the keys
Give ‘em the keys
Coney approached me to hawk
A movie or two—no thank
You—wanted to buy the
Would be resolved in two hours
Black girls with clear beads lived
Happily ever after—madly scrapping
Faded blacktops with white and colored
Chalk—this spot was safe yesterday
Get your rope, let’s be on our way
There were fowl times
Cross fires of vices
And disciples illicit tutelage
Groups, racket sacs tower and higher
Ivory towers there’s cracks
In the cylinder blocks shoot
Out the streetlights train the
Eye for when the crowd
Scatters—see how many
Marks will be hit—one
For the vices—two for
The disciples and three
Bullets into the small
White church’s stained
Glass—four for the lump
Sum not returned to the top
Head made red devil cake batter
Beat, beat, beat, licked cheek
Off a high-yellow believer
Disassemble the arms and
Hammer drop them down
The elevator shaft—let’s go
Protect our interests—serve
The verse in every A…P…T
Like early mornin’ sweeps
Kids toss rocks for fun on
Little Sicily’s—paved verde’
Lawn folks pawned let the good
Times shine on the ice age don’t
Let the lake frontin’ effect snow
Extinct the historic people
Have come and gone—sold
Episodes to bring faces
To the black wasteland
Reconstruct these old bones
Pecking around with my pitch
Fork, who’s the boss and where’s
The top hat and cane? It’s all
Right here: the reds, whites
Break yourself for the green—
The flag flown at half mast for
Sais stuck in brothers’ backs
Division upon the Evergreen
Elm and Laramie do—wop
Howlin’ Wolf you dig blues
Brothers’ wild car chases high
Fives ‘round Cooley High good
Times die on Six point licenses to kill
Hollow points hard to swallow
Like balloons on death’s anniversary
Counts unnumbered eleven bodies
Bounce Seven high ain’t gonna
Stop now, Preach, ain’t gonna
Give up now, Preach even though
They say Poetry’s a goner Preach
It goes…it goes…it goes…
Jive comes from the joy—ride
I want to live forever
I want to live forever
I want to live forever
Experience arose, Preacher
Being a volunteer—knew
Residents’ names, their kids
And the new cream coats
Oil based paint, condensation
Forms on the windows drips like
Tears from Toni’s view of her two
Boys who act differently in Lincoln Park
Free to roam without provocation peddlers
She shook her shoulder length braids
Spooked by baby cockroaches falling
from the ceiling like a single bean
Reflection of what you’ve been given
Paint over the chilly window sill
You can’t remove all the grime by yourself
It’s about the time you invest here, this means
More to me than channel
Two plus five plus seven
Old news project hopelessness
Projects—up the museum stair
Wells through the breezeways
Upon the tower, real Gs
Open shooting galleries and
Seal the stoop and heater
Into their territory to deal
Out the Glory of the Lord
Who whispered through my
Mother “Go there chicken”
Imagine if I didn’t listen
Yo, it’s worth repeating
URB plunge sign-up again thereafter
Forever stand up for the afflicted
Was not fried, plucked—
Tar or feathered, no scars
Rhythmic muscle starkly
Overcome by peace—blue notes
No Greater Love—finna lick
My fingers, mmm—God is good
Inside our living room next to the arm of the couch, kneeling before her precious ones, my mother’s persistent rendition of the traditional American spiritual “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” visits like a sudden breeze, a common joyful voice made exquisite. As a passenger unable to steer the commercial airplane I sought control by gripping seat in front of me. The turbulent speed bumps made me quiver on my first international flight to the Republica Dominicana. The pilots’ trained hands came before me. The island’s edge emerald blue, a caribbean color soothed the shock. The culture engaged the moment we disembarked. Student Impact leaders of Willow Creek Community Church organized the first mission trip of it’s kind for high school students. Our parents and other family members and friends supported us by word of mouth. No crowd-funding. Gifts in kind. The first time outside the boundaries of America, I watched God’s hand protect our group through rapidly rising waterfall waters. Against the odds, we yanked down jungle vines to toss over the rushing rapids to pull them to safety.
The bus on the way back from the waterfall was stopped by men wearing bandanas around their heads. We were ordered to leave the bus and walk on foot. These were popular riots against the military police. The pepper spray launched against the rioters filled the streets like cloudy masses. Rounds of gunfire blasted into groups of people. Basketball sized tarantulas crawled on faint light blue cylinder block walls.
John, a student leader and I held a rugged wooden frame between us. Taut chicken wire was nailed around the perimeter. The nail’s flat head held down the interwoven wires. The forward and backward motion sifted out the rocks from the sand. Our hand and shoulder muscles burned like hot copper piping. Spade shovels dumped heavy heaps of sand. The load seemed too much to bear so raked the shovels across the chicken wire grate. The tropical temperature seemed to double with this type of manual labor.
Mountain high ice melt spewed out of a single pipe like a garden hose in the cylinder block partitioned showers. Richard picked his son up and I from O’Hare Airport when we flew back to America, the most powerful and prosperous nation. Richard couldn’t believe what he heard the stories we told in his Honda sedan. It a different experience than the high-pressure, high reward restaurant business. Richard skillfully runs Richard Walker’s Pancake House in Schaumburg, Illinois the home of the baked apple pancake and other top-notch breakfast items. “He’s got you and me brother in his hands, He’s got you and me sister in his hands, He’s got you and me brother in his hands, He’s got the whole world in his hands.” Fade out.
Outside The United States of Arrogance
All the Dominicans wanted – a paved street
The request the government – couldn’t complete
Military fatigued police unleash
Tear gas and shotgun blast
‘Till the village riot cease
Projectiles hurled far
So Youth For Christ and Impacters retreat from cement, cylinder blocks and rebar
Battle ground on a dirt road – one-side shantytowns and shacks
Here are the facts
Unsafe for children to walk down country roads while motor vehicles whiz by
Burning tires – thick black smoke, tree stumps, an over turned bus – I have seen
To MPs’ an impasse – I tell you no lie
A little boy’s father shot in the knee – not Sosa’s new scene
Walking down that street unfamiliar
When canisters of white mists started to hiss
Wise man, God’s provision, handed me a ping pong sized lemon of citrus
To breathe thru’ to prevent tears, God sees and hears, place under my nose above my upper lip
God’s quasi-gas mask
To keep us focused on His task
Three others and I were separated from the main group – a dreadful bliss
Bandana Bandits speaking fruits of Hispania – point us The Way
Reunited, walking with the group in eerie calm
Glass objects released from their palm
Crashing down by our ankles – we had to run away
Beth was hit
Barrington boy picked her up – piggyback and we split!
I ran into the store
And huddled next to two girls on the tiled floor
I looked up, surprised, Dominica’s virgins
“No not left behind”, so I ran as fast as Rin Tin Tin!
I caught up to the group and we organized in single file
For in a large mass we would have caught hell fire – no denial
Those MPs with stern yet puzzled faces – troops of rank and file?
As we walked by I anticipated their vociferous revile
O’ Lord will we be fired upon by burning bullets
Moments from now will my Maker and I have met?
Reached the camp and assembled in the outdoor kitchen as one safe body – not to fret
But hastily, humbly began to pray to our Deliverer as one when all our eyes met
In my life, defining moments – God hath set
Thru’ this mutiny possessing impunity
I did not dare ask! Why?
He delivered us to peace where eagles…fly
In the cloudless sky
At Messiah College Catherine Lawrence, Yale Ph.D, had a set book list for her class: “Europe in the 20th Century.” One of the books on the academic mix-tape “Beginning of the End” by Angelo Quattrocchi and Tom Nairn not only made my educational workflow stop, but the caramel polyester-plastic film fluidly pulled out, miniature spools running low into gears already feeding off of magnetic information of other course materials. Inside the Mountain View dormitory lounge overlooking the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania, a thought washout my initial foolish thought of not doing the “one book, one paper” per week assignment. Since the book is divided into one half prose and the other half poetry I’ll simply scrub through the poetry to see what pearls could be shucked from the tight text along the oyster river.
May 1968, French police blasted tear gas canisters into makeshift barricades formed by student crowds. As the tear gas flooded the streets with toxic white plumes of smoke I disappeared into the historical account in a windblown swirl. The agitation from trying to swallow a book whole created layers and layers of beauty from the defense mechanism to succeed. My eyes became irritated when I read Angelo’s eyewitness account because my experience in the Dominican Republic elevated out of my history into the history of the other. The bond escalated by rubbing my red eyes as the poetic recollection formed the assignment I’d hand to Professor Lawrence on Tuesday morning.
Being mindful about Professor Lawrence’s education from Harvard and Yale I thought what I handed in would be insufficient for the one book, one paper per week written rule within the syllabus. When she returned our papers on Thursday morning I saw my couple of pages saturated with blue ink. It was marked up with circles and underlines like bleeding incisions. So I reluctantly flipped through the pages and closed my eyes as I turned it over. When I read Professor Lawrence’s written response it turned my fear of being slashed with a low mark into receiving guidance. She essentially told me I should consider changing my major from History to English. Blue sentences were laced in encouragement for my effort. A minus.
My introduction to New York City was built up with so much excitement driving an hour and a half from Grantham, PA unsure what to expect from the biggest and brightest city on the East Coast. No listening to the artist we were en route to see before their performance.
Crossing the boundaries of the tri-state area on Turnpikes and them BAM! We shot through the Lincoln Tunnel and arrived on West 27th and 10th Avenue to be at Twilo where Sasha and Digweed, Paul Van Dyk and others on a progressive house journey on the wings of the Phazon sound system through the twilight into the next morning while the city is bustling and particles swirl throughout the grid. As we left I took a photograph of the twin World Trade Center towers before we headed back to Messiah College.
The new terminals had not been completed at the Philadelphia International Airport. My flight back to Chicago during the summer time was a couple of hours away. A stand-alone Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper lied on the seat next to me. I picked up the newspaper to see what’s happening. Travelers, airport staff, taxiing planes disappeared as the article’s headline immediately grabbed my attention: Tel-Aviv Suicide Bombing at the Dolphin Discotheque. Standing in lines for prominent record players who create theatrical drama inside dark rooms lit by firework flashes was commonplace during my first trips to crisp New York City. Entering advanced sound spaces like Arc and Twilo made me one of many who came for the unbounded show before the terminology changed far above the underground. You mean my life could be eliminated as quickly as it happened to the twenty-one who were slaughtered by a drum of death? This could happen in the great cities of America. Questions, empathy and love went out to those young Israelis who lost their life while going out to have fun breath. The bomb was detonated after the suicide bomber taunted those who formed a line outside the once popular discotheque along the seafront promenade. The club since then has been gutted, graffiti sprayed and set for demolition. I started the poem inside the terminal and continued to refine the words by incorporating an Israeli disc jockey I met in New York City at ARC and the passion he has for dark progressive and surfing.
Then it happened to us. Cassandra burst into the classroom to tell us an airplane struck the north face of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Mr. Peters immediately stopped class and dismissed us. We exited the historic ‘row-home’ in North Philadelphia on Broad and Diamond and entered another building to watch the tragic events unfold on the news.
In the United States
We wait in a liminal state
Our impending doom is
Four beats: Boom…Boom…Boom…Boom
In this room we’ve paid green sheets for digitized
Disco—dolphins swim in the gulf of the groove
Diving into rollers tossed into the surf—clear
Blue, deep into the depths of black—soaring out of
Breakers, rushing upon the divided kingdom’s shore
Reforming the SanD—landing dark sounds new
A black suited surfer slides along the ocean’s hands
Closing into fists, pummeling the chosen athlete
The storm is surging in the most chic way, preferred
Competition isn’t exercised with cleats rather
When bodies meat in p.m.—simmering to a.m.
Do you feel the heat? Everybody’s got
High hat fever, cleavers slice through ears
And clammy grade A, bass and cymbals drop
Like thunder and summer showers preparing
The atmosphere where people, in the countdown
Of hours, devour each other, merely four pro-pro
Essential beats here, layered effects as one unfolding
Mix—released by mechanical decks. How could
Four beats be so fierce that they would pierce
Our souls and drill holes upon our epidermis?
Summon the drums tribal heads, diverse tribes
Swallow jungle juice until—warm tummies are pre-
Scribed absolutely full. Countdown to the blast off—
Cosmos replace the Space between the body and the Spirit
Booze reign with toxins, hibernate trepidation, clocks tick
Pitch black and the operator of lights relentlessly assault
One another for control of the crowd like Arafat and Sharon
—Will not halt even with breaks in the beats—errantly trained
Pills possess our personhood—marred and mangled by night terrors
Twenty bills paid so plenty of chills may tingle, remain ringing
And thrill nerves until—BOOM…all senses cease. The suicide—
Obliterates parties’ peace—pieces of people added to the recipe:
Backpack packed with see four balls, to screws, see four wires to
Switch the chum from meditation, queasy stomach at the check
Point then rush into the quiet queue pressed the button for chaos
Chumming to attract sharks from other oceans, their total unknown
Into the Mediterranean to attack young dolphins gamboling in
Digitized disco—diving into rollers tossed into the surf—clear
Blue, deep into the depths of black—soaring out of
Breakers, rushing upon the divided kingdom’s shore
Reforming the SanD—landing dark sounds new
Heard by all of US: consummates the impending doom.
Graduated from Messiah College/Temple University with a bachelor of English/Pre-Law.
Providence appeared in biblical proportions on May 15th, Mile marker 68, when at 75 miles per hour my Wildberry Sebring LXI spun out of control off an embankment on Interstate 70 West. Accidental. Rifle, Colorado. There was a bend in the road near these Indian Head rock formations. Deaf and blind. God sees and hears. I was barely awake, and dozed off. I woke up out of control. Andrew thought he could regain control and when the spinning got more intense he yelled, “Jesus!” The rear wheels struck a bush. We rolled over. Shattered glass dashed and dove in every direction. We landed right side up. Andrew looked at me. The first words out of his mouth were, “Kev, I’m so sorry.” God is in control.
A lightning bolt appeared in my shattered windshield. The damage created from a complete rollover on the Sebring’s frame folded like the surrounding mountains. It happened once. The roof could have crushed our heads as it caved in on us like a ship’s bow. Upon opening my passenger’s side door I noticed a boundless blue morning sky, peace only God could make and a concerned gentleman who called the police after seeing the accident. The paramedics led us to the ambulance. As the flashy doors swung open and I stepped into the quarters I knew it wasn’t my time to die yet. After surveying the damage with a “peace that surpasses all understanding’ I loosened a dusty flat rock from underneath my spoiler. I put it in my grey Nike short’s right pocket. At the Red River Motel, I withheld my strong emotion backwashing my eyes as I told my eldest sister what happened. At the dusty salvage yard, Andrew quickly paced to make up for lost time, unscrewed my stereo equipment and packed the black trash bags we bought from Walmart. I stalled in anger for what was taken from me and a horrible way to start graduate school. P & K Towing told us we wouldn’t make it out of there on that Sunday in time before the start of classes on May 18th. It was beyond my control.
I looked for my license on the passenger seat. My middle finger got stabbed with a shard of glass. I felt stinging pain and imagined what it would have been like if the accident was much worse. I complained and cursed out loud. I couldn’t get the shard of glass out. My brother-in-law, Andrew gave me a bottle of water to clean the blood and dirt. The taxi cab driver from Grand Junction, which is an hour west of Rifle, Colorado arrived. He used his long finger nails to pluck the shard of glass from my middle finger. I couldn’t do it myself. I needed God and the people he surrounded me with.
Andrew and I eventually arrived in Los Angeles, California near USC on Royal St. lined with stunning purple jacaranda trees. The violet flower blooms covered the sidewalks and street like in preparation for my processional arrival. A pleasant site after an unnerving, winding mission through Utah’s mountain ranges with the sky filled with strange blue light and appraising the golden bowl of light once we reached Las Vegas, Nevada. I walked down Figueroa to USC Card Services to get a student ID to sign-in for Troy Apartments. I hadn’t showered in two days. No rest on the quest made me exhausted. The photo, ID 3347-1945-53, captured the disheveled look. We unloaded my belongings stuffed in black trash bags salvaged from my Sebring’s final resting place at a junk yard; covered with a blue tarp. With burning muscles we brought the black trash bags to my apartment from the hallway shaped like the pattern of the lightning bolt on my totaled Sebring. It was believable and incredible.
One afternoon after settling into the University of Southern California Troy apartment number 303, I pulled the rock from my drawer. I had been plotting my course from Troy Apartments to where my classes were located on a University Park Campus & North University Park area map, when I realized in an astonished state, the rock was the exact shape of the boundaries of USC. A sense of being led through danger with God beside me and peace filled my spirit two-weeks after I started classes. The sides of the rock were now Vermont, Exposition, Figueroa and Jefferson. This auspice in the form of a flat rock was a gift from God, though it could have cost me my life, He saved me from turmoil and made my life–royal. The crimson sacrifice of his son, Jesus, turned my life into refined gold.
Director James Cheeks III and photographer Kevin Campbell set out to Long Beach to capture its thriving skateboard scene in the aftermath of a gang shooting that ended the life of one of the city’s most promising skaters. This award-winning documentary brings light to a crew of talented skaters who are elevating themselves out of poverty with their passion of skateboarding – proving that skateboarding isn’t some suburban sport. It’s a means of survival…
Graduated from the University of Southern California with a Master in Professional Writing degree.
On Trousdale Parkway the bustling gauntlet of ten-by-ten popup tents had laid out samples, but it was of the paper or plastic variety. Tech produce was not my idea of fresh. Post graduation there were few certain prospects. Silicon Beach breeze blew their foreign language test. These ‘Implants’ didn’t seem to have anything to do with my dreams, but sticky eyeballs kept looking. Let’s just go along with it. Crisply await a daily update with a tray of apple slices. Si o No? Grab ahold of the metal side handles of the bushel basket. Head down the aisle of algorithms. Pick from the dry growth on doodled flow charts animated to fill shopping carts. The recession pitched a change up.
Ballpoint pen. Stress ball. Retractable ruler. Upon meeting Jennifer, the female recruiter at the USC career fair there was an immediate connection. Somebody rooted for me. Like a hyperlink, the full-time job at Pricegrabber.com immediately sent me to a new paid position. Three to four clicks away. My newly contracted master degree by the private university impacted my move to another premier business campus. The clear solution was splashed on by cloudy contacts.
Located on Wilshire and Westwood Boulevards, The Tower was built with gleaming crystalline rocks. The gigantic building blocks, dark green serpentine granite were quarried out of the Green Mountains of Vermont in the lobby. The strong structure was representative of the winding bends and turns of life. The wily and swirling smoke encased in the polished block looked like it’ll be there for a long time, but it too would disappear like vapor in this domain. Around the clock consumers with a penchant for merchants compared prices as they shopped for deals trafficked in the hundreds of thousands like commuters just off the 405. This is the business solution, but does it project the final cost.
The luxurious surroundings were made with such precision and grace. A warm hand touched the massive museum. There was a place for me. Every morning I’d greet the security guard dressed in a black suit. We’d exchange pleasantries that spread the panning view over the horizon like a booster rocket. There was so much going on in our atmosphere that the resistance took the force of faith.
The quick elevator ride to the 11th floor briefed the riders on the weather and news headlines. The acceleration made me feel a little heavier until the doors opened. The weight came off. Electric guitars flowed into the workspace: “When The Levee Breaks”. The top of the building resembled a medieval crown made from triangular Kasota limestone from southern Minnesota. The crown’s tips are Brazilian navy marble. Bound to go to my workstation so that my resources could abound, but this is hardly what actually happened.
There were plenty of ping-pong tournaments, Lucky Charms doused with whole milk and late afternoon taquitos microwaved with a wet paper towel to go around each week. Pricegrabber provided these groceries as a courtesy attached to daily growth spurts. Someone named curt was always checking the numbers. Let’s check to see if they’re actually working. Hundreds of tech and entertainment products were daily added to the database by succinct identifiers like manufacturer and model numbers to receive the bi-weekly paycheck glee. That’s me in the see through window. The envelope rips once. Do as many as you can. That’s all you’ll get. Alex was quite faster. Go refill my water bottle at the water cooler. Say hi to the familiar face down the hallway. Refrigerate the tension caused by Alex’s decision to train a newer employee for product approvals before me. It was all discussed during the weekly meeting. JP our direct supervisor spoke up for me. Return to my regular shape like a green squeeze ball after my hand crushed the company logo. The creases increased the signs of aging.
Now back to creating masterIDs. The master identifier code included the manufacturer plus the model number plus other unique criteria. My mind was somewhere else, probably the cafeteria. The addition of electronic products like cameras, computers and televisions kept up-to-date for those who were in the arms race. The buying and selling of these goods shipped directly from warehouses, the size of square miles, into neighborhoods awaiting their purchase and arsenal count.
The upgrades and the enhancements of our lives opened the question: “Who owns us?” Organizing human resources with glued eyeballs made us gatekeepers of treasures new only once out of the box. They deteriorate and go out of date. Look at the monitor, monitor your assets and then look at a distant object to refresh dazed and dried eyes. Lord on your courts you pass the decision to me. Lay up my treasures in heaven by giving to the needy. Thieves cannot jump high enough vertically to break into these storage units. Jesus, the Master of my identity sees what’s in store. Stored in secret, I wonder what has counted and qualified. Look forward to what will be rewarded by my Father in the secret place. What have I been eyeing? Bad eyes. Good eyes. My body full of darkness, but I hate it. My body full of light and I love it. God be my masterID. Touch my eyes. Be my King. Don’t stress about these retractable rulers.
At the corner cubicle I sat on my duff while adding manufacturer’s photos, marketing text and technical specifications. These manual additions were helpful for the users who used the information to make a solid purchase, but my unique gifting slowly eroded from the electronic monotony. There were days I complained and days I became grateful. Well not complaining that you guys would hear, but within my heart. Green and purple were not my blood type. However, a manager from another department grabbed my attention by showing me a snack idea. Ripe avocado smashed on toast with sparse salt and pepper dustings. Stay buff.
An electronic piece of correspondence sent to my ma went something like: I’m changing my lifestyle because God has been speaking to me through his word. I saw a documentary called, “God Grew Tired of Us”. You should watch it. God speaks to us in many different ways. Like the Lost Boys of Sudan, it took courage to step upon the airport’s elevator. His ways are higher than ours. Of course we’re going to rock forwards and backwards as we step with the Spirit. P.F. Chang’s on 4th and Wilshire, after a USC video shoot for a gorgeous Korean lady, her make-up artist Kiki asked me if I’d like to go to Living Waters. Her invitation caught me off guard because of my recent reading regiment in the gospel of John.
It was like matching what she said to what I read. Who does that? Grow up. That’s when I started attending Living Waters of the San Fernando Valley. Pastor Barry broadened my horizons with the light of the word and teeming creativity. He flipped the Gap Band song, “Outstanding, Girl you knock me out” into a praise song for the glory of God. After a few Sundays, I ended up at Tisha Campbell’s home. It was her cousin’s suggestion instead of a restaurant. We played billards until she strolled inside her gorgeously furnished living room. She enthusiastically exclaimed, “Are these the new choir recruits?” Deep down my initial thought was you’re not fully acquainted with your new company. Yeah right. Endearment to God: “You so crazy.” You love the Campbell kids so much.
Hearing the word preached so passionately, clearly and relevantly made me realize I didn’t have to accept the way I was living for myself. Tisha spoke faith over my crumbling life; it was the truth that cleared away the purple haze. Red button: Deny yourself. Oh God, who would have known I’d attend the same church as Gina from the television show ‘Martin’, unless you were intimately acquainted with my favorite television programming. The African-American experience has played a significant role in my life. When May came around my choir family sang a beautiful rendition of happy birthday that mended parts of my fragmented soul by your unforced rhythms of grace. Toxins became pure in the fellowship of family. Saints suddenly appeared from the invisible kingdom.
Itoya’s lucid sleeves were gradually filled up with extraordinary single-shot scenes captured in and around Ghetto Park. The acid-free art portfolio was mobile and made locally in Carson, California. Bel-Air Camera reproduced my created images on Kodak Royal matte paper. The excitement grew exponentially from the moment I uploaded the images to their server to when I received the pick-up call. The new additions slipped into the clear sleeves were the fulfillment of the highly anticipated new release. The gigantic point and shoot camera on Bel-Air Camera’s corner on Kincross and Gayley Avenues made the store easy to find.
My last name, Campbell, was given to the counter helper. Like the soup. It’s in with the over-sized envelopes. I’d unseal the Scotch tape and carefully slide out the few prints I could afford at six dollars a piece. No fingerprints marked the sensitive paper with the white clothe gloves they gave me. As I looked at the final prints made from in-camera adjustments, the greater purpose of the instrument in my hands was to anoint and shoot. The pallbearer of my own death left it all for the God who is the all in all gave me the life to love others with white glove service. The supreme image wanted to use my fingerprints.
My first professional camera was purchased here from David, the owner’s son. He called my phone when the equipment was ready for pickup while I sat on the floor of a conversion van on the way to a high school graduation ceremony with Ms. King. The blessing received from my mom’s generosity was like an alabaster jar. The beautiful fragrance of faith ascended to the thrown of God like an offering I could not afford. The thousands of dollars could have been used for other purposes. Some could have said, “Why this waste.” Nobody could bother what God intended for good. It was a beautiful thing. Inside the home of Simon the Leper, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Thank God for the role women have played in my life for the glory of God.
Bill White had a trimmed white beard grown from wisdom that starkly contrasted his medium brown skin. He spoke to me like a grandfather with tender words and something short and sweet. After we got to know each other a little bit more, I brought my quarter-filled Itoya art portfolio. He observed the choice images, turning the lucid sleeves with care before he voiced his thoughts. Bill thanked me for “thoughtfully sharing the pictures with me. It’s easy to care about labors of love. Keep it up, my friend.”
The Apostle Paul expressed gratitude and concern by ‘constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” Bill White affirmed the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus to do good works. The storied Author prepared the photojournalistic imagery digitally developed from the professional camera in advance. From the Father to the salted storyteller to your family.
The subjects highlighted in the framework trusted me. We had good times together. You could see it in their eyes. It was his Spirit living inside of me that is higher than I. Great concern existed for the eternal destiny of these subjects before we reached the exit. The film was a documentary; it was difficult to set up boundaries so that you wouldn’t get too close. There were spiritual attacks and financial setbacks that kept the tension toxic until the storm’s rain cleared away the smog the next day. Bad news spewed from the conduits of love. This could get physical from one more verbal shove. Trips in the Buttermobile from Long Beach to Chatsworth with the cast so that they could hear the good news was a hybrid hustle, bustling forth in the tussle inside the taxi sedan slash school bus. Sometimes the only prayer was Lord get me out of here. When will this end? The courage needs to persist as the lives of others merge with what’s yours.
Inside the waiting room, next to the stage, the door closed with all of the choir members checking to make sure our outfits looked proper and our vocal cords were warmed up and in tune. There was the nervous anticipation before we were to enter the stage, preparations made during practice, now on display in the courts of praise.
Singing as a tenor, under the musical direction of Matthew Griffin, in an all-black choir gave me a chance to learn praise and worship within a new freedom-from-slavery narrative. One song we sang in front of the congregation, a few feet of separation, wearing color-coordinated outfits, was a Hezekiah Walker song, “I Will Bless The Lord At All Times.” I’ll never forget the three sections of glorious praise singing out their lines with sweaty foreheads “and His praises, and His praises, and His praises shall continually be in my mouth.”
The parts fired off from the eccentric arms of Matthew like firing off black canons. Upper register harmonies take you where your heart needs to be, but where your range alone can’t reach. Band members, who season secular artists with their secret recipes, break out in a unified cosmic rhythm. Steppers trample the carpeting with ample zeal. Clapping hands keep the count, lost the count of impacts, but feel exactly like tingling electricity. Tambourine shakers out do snakes’ rattles. Dancing and shouting in the presence of God is only the beginning; there’s no forewarning.
The Chatsworth industrial park had a large office space packed with well-dressed families employed by the entertainment industry. The commute wasn’t close from USC. It’s hotter in the valley. The electromagnetic induction to the enemy’s productions caused by my own enticements. The harmless stage quickly became a raging abduction. Salvation restored basic functions. The nervous feeling fled my mind the moment practice rehearsals boosted the choir members into the shifting atmosphere from circumstantial to the sovereign God awareness.
These colorful personalities like stained glass welcomed me into the luminescent family of God. One Sunday, the praise became so intense, the room filled with body heat and spiritual expectancy that the light fixtures began smoking. The code violation burned up with overwhelming grace. A tribe surrounded me with a new tactic in spiritual warfare: my voice.
Hiding in a dark corner and denying what mistakes I was making hurt me more that I would have admitted. The escape into chats never had actual worth. I’m grateful to be in a position where I can make better decisions hidden with Christ in God. You and Dad have helped me along the way. I know I don’t need the most technically advanced phone and not because the faceplate is broken. The call, the responsibility, and being a good steward with what I has been smashed like the looking glass. It all dropped slipped from my hands. Everyone has done it because it’s their face to an idol. The face seems unrecognizable. We need the ultimate face-to-face intimacy. I’m ready for him to bring me to the next level in my life. I know I won’t be living in an apartment the rest of my life. It’s a staging ground to blast off to a higher plateau all within an eight-hour workday. Super slow.
My mind naturally degenerated to whatever was not pure. There was electricity there, but I needed to find a way to put it to good use. The instrumentation was damaged by the abuse. My notes were off key. Then I realized it wasn’t my righteousness that made me lovely. Transforming my mind through scripture memorization was like the game of memory. It was frustrating when the diamond designed cardboard pieces were flipped right side up with unrelated illustrations. You’d have to wait your turn. Then you’d figure out how to try again. Then flashes of neuro light went off when peaking at the matching cardboard pieces. Full trust formed the connection between the living word and the truth now desired in my inner parts; it matched.
The radio station on iTunes radio called Caribbean Gospel Surf came from workplace boredom. Supporting these artists by buying their music reciprocated their spiritual support when the tropical rhythms uplifted my spirit when it was down in the dumps. The monotonous work would have dried my drive. Coupled with the songs, there was a Jamaican girl who ordered boxes of exotic fruit. Iyana worked in another department, but she shared these pointy and colorful fruits. She introduced me to ginger beer while telling me about her grandmother’s sugar plantation in Jamaica.
I think back to my childhood when we used to sing us these blatant Hebrew names of God songs on family vacations. Amy Grant’s heartfelt rendition of El Shaddai clothed its listeners with more than an accessory: the Bible Belt. Garments of praise and salvation were tried on by both the unrighteous and the righteous inside these fitting rooms. You’d have to ask for the key. You never at first think it fits or looks right because of what you previously wore. I remember thinking it was kind of corny, but the point was made with a significant investment toward the future. It was also about knowing the fundamentals of knowing God. In 1 Peter 2:9-10 the text says we “were once not a people, but now you are the people of God.” There’s a process involved. I hope my actions will help my dad see more of what God’s doing or a glimpse of him by honoring him as my father. I’m trying to honor both fathers and my ma!
Jennifer who originally hired me a year and 5 months ago gave me a new extra large Pricegrabber polo for stepping up to be the ping-pong commissioner at the company’s potluck event next week. I have to keep score and send out e-mails. Audrey and I ordered Ethiopian food from Rosalind’s in Little Ethiopia on Fairfax. She was my food club partner. I got two missed calls from home so I called back and as usual Kerri answered the phone. She unexpectedly blessed me with 100 dollars toward my blowout. I didn’t know what to say other than thank you. I can only thank the Lord for how He’s turning all of our lives around in his timing at the midnight hour. God wants to see us praying for each other with love and truth so that we become effective for his purposes. The last couple of nights were hard for me because I was tempted. I didn’t go back to it, but I was close.
Economically crippled homeowners who could not actually afford the adjustable mortgage rate assigned to their loan were partially to blame for the severe recession. Lowered lending standards across America had long-lasting repercussions during my master degree pursuit. You want to study writing at USC? Oh sure, we’ll lend you the money. The campus of private education cash cows intellectually grazing until their programs are razed. Free range around the global iron cage as long as we’re safe in our high-rent stables. Fight-on for the corporate takeover of South-LA as long as our mommas and pappas are happy. It takes a conquest to raise our children in powdered luxury over the ramshackle village. You over there eating cereal with a silver spoon, now that you’re educated by our institution we’re going to send you to the financial institution to fork over every cent. Or we’ll slaughter you. The reception gained by the antennae positioned on your parking garage roof kept me in tune with the One who was Sent. The deception has now been off set. Go public.
While I was being cared for at Pricegrabber.com by earning a living and paying bills, I was able to attend a going away celebration of our receptionist LaTeia at a bar in Culver City. That’s where I met Johnny who is friends with David LaChapelle.
James and I were talking about David LaChappelle and his film called Rize when I first started my master program at USC. Although his apartment was messy there were plenty of artifacts to learn from on Portland Street.
In Culver City, Lateia Jordan had a ‘going away’ celebration from Pricegrabber.com. Co-workers and friends met at the Cozy Inn a few hours after work came to a close. Little did I know that after playing salty shuffleboard there was an arrangement being made to learn from the best.
Gliding over the salt, some pucks with too much force went over the edge while others halted in the place they were intended to be. At the bar a warm discussion ensued over cocktails and beers with Jason and his friend Johnny. The information written down on a bar napkin led to my next step in life. David LaChappelle has an amazing creative space in West Hollywood made from diligent efforts in his artwork. David is a well-accomplished and sincere celebrity photographer. He directed Rize. It was the film artifact I saw in the apartment on Portland Street.
It just happened. The colorful Christmas lights decorated the inside; warmly lit. People came to imbibe their favorite spirits and beer. We celebrated Lateia’s contributions to the internet-comparison shopping company’s daily operations. Lateia organized the breakfast and snacks provided by PG. We reminisced about when we were on the 11th floor when the 5.8 earthquake made the tower building in downtown Westwood Village violently bounce up and down. My content coordinating next a window view of another floor of a neighboring office building, became unimportant as everyone ran towards the staircase exit. Some shrilled more than others. There was so much to be thankful for as I left that night with warmth throughout my being, both from the drinks and receiving an unexpected gift. So cozy.
The house market collapse caused human heads to pop up from the maze of cubicles to listen to a serious human resources discussion. The first round of layoffs didn’t affect our department. Shortly thereafter we were presented severance packages. We were the chosen thirty or so. Laid off. Expendable. I was thinking what’s going on? I don’t want to retreat and give up out here. God don’t you see what’s going on here? I didn’t hear from the studio for a while after that point, so I wasn’t sure if I would be working there or not.
When studio internship began I didn’t realize, what I thought was bringing me away from completing the film, was actually bringing me closer than I had ever imagined. My significance was vital enough for God to not abandon me. He kept me in the flock to preserve the value of the stock.
The plants needed to be watered early when the light’s soft abundance gently warms the hours during the night’s absence of the sun. Upon the corner of Romaine and Orange Drive in West Hollywood the LaChapelle Paper Envelope Co. stenciled signage misled the unsuspecting into believing there was manufacturing of raw pulp within the old bow-trust building. Upon a living prayer, moving about freely past the financial hardship by hearing the news from heaven brought joy to my life.
Watering plants flowed cycles into my life like the green garden hose. No more deadpan stares, while populating products to add value to the holder’s shares. My cold right hand molded to the form of the mouse was pulled off by the Potter’s hand and placed into a hot spot. The content of my character bonded to the duties of a gardener. Miracle fruits grew here among the taller than I rolls of multicolored construction paper. Miracle fruits grew here among the metal cabinets of spray and bucket paint. Miracle fruits were picked among the columns of wooden backdrops. You had to pull out the supplies to make the creations come alive.
The most efficient way to feed the plants clear love liquid was to open the locks of the huge metal roll-up gate. A couple of times as I learned the process of finding the lock’s keys, unlocking the locks and moving the locks to a cabinet inside where they wouldn’t get stolen or lost was pretty basic. I pulled open the latches and reached for the oxidized brown metal chain. The undisturbed jet-black danger caught my attention. The black widow’s legs lifted upward the sticky sinew like cotton candy. My chain clinched hands were a few inches away from contact. Unsure if it was saying good morning, I quickly lifted my hands higher on the chain to completely open the gate. Then I took a closer look at the venomous man killer. The red hourglass marking on its abs was unmistakable against its brick and mortar nook. I could have eliminated the threat with a torrent spraying out from under my thumb on the tip of the hose, but I chose to let it be still.
The narrow concrete troughs were filled with a discarded mixture of cigarette butts and pieces of gum on top of the greyish dirt. Used wet coffee grounds like rich volcanic soil from the daily pot of morning coffee were dumped from the white filter into the plant bed. The extra care made compost for the best chance for the plants to survive during the mid-afternoon sun roast. Large water blobs released like unstoppable chargers from the steering wheel’s valve. Lefty loosey soaked the plants in seconds matter. The overflow moistened the rough sidewalk like round waves.
The assistant studio manager Jeff called me into his office space to the left of the main entrance off Orange Drive. Annie, the set designer needs help, of course not with the conception, but painting the wooden building blocks a base black. Before my hands got dirty, I paid attention to the movement of shredded newspaper inside of small cardboard box. Annie told me she found an injured baby crow beside her Ford SUV in the morning. Her fists were clinched to a white towel, twisting in opposite directions so that the moistened towel would delicately drip water droplets into the baby crow’s small, smooth stone grey like beak. As long as the towel was above its head, the beak stayed open. This is how we are to see our heavenly Father, who is above us. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” This became more than an internship of David’s images and researched concepts, but a learning obsession of love by the image of the invisible. He’s not as stern as you think.
Sturdy metal racks, packed with glossy 8 x 10s of known celebrities, lined the high walls, inter sanctum of David’s narrow archive room, hosted sturdy metal racks, packed with glossy 8 x 10s of known celebrities. Access to these custom boxes was like having presents at your fingertips. While trying to stabilize my balance on a wooden wobbly library ladder I picked a labeled box for instance Brittney Spears. There really wasn’t a bad picture of this bodacious blonde. How does the living and invisible God speak into my life when full-time employment disappears? Unemployment checks replace a salary. There isn’t one way, but as I found myself working with Austen Risolvato on a archival inventory project for David’s old prints, advertisements, exhibits, album colors, books the revelation suddenly happened.
On the lower shelf, my knees bent at a 90-degree angle to look at what was in a large cardboard present box, the label said, “Your Needs Met” (1985). The pithy title of David’s art series confirmed for that the Lord my God was with me in DLC Studio – West. Even though my work there was not paid my needs would be met. Meanings come together like a beautiful symphony of God’s foreseeing care.
Austen stacked up the 8 x 10s on my out stretched forearms. She laughed because she emptied the whole shelf on my arms. She said, “You’re the strongest in the studio.”
‘The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.” Uncovering these works of art was like looking at sensitive and classified government documents. However, these inspired treasures were not meant to be buried.
Dual sets of wooden cabinetry surrounded the secretary space like wooden control center. I’d open the windows to keep it cool or to pass a message along to a co-intern. Manning the phone system required me to use caution when answering the phone to protect the famous ones inside the David in Wonderland. My voice, “Thank you for calling studio…”. Of course there was Ecstasy and Pleasure, but it was all built from hard work. The occasional loads of laundry done in the washer and dryer saved money by not going to the Lavanderia.
When I returned to the archival room there were some framed pictures that needed to be rewrapped. There was some mold in the corners. Preserving art is as difficult as creating art. Jeff, the assistant studio manager at the time, told me about the secret passageway between the archival room and the cavernous main space of the studio. No way. The neon sign says, “Pleasure” maybe there’s something else in there.
There’s hundreds of neatly boxed and stacked, David LaChapelle Artists & Prostitutes books published by Taschen, within the tunnel. The hardcover book is 698 pages inside a black clamshell box with the title spray painted on in David’s signature pink. It’s Fort Knox. Moving those thirty-five pound boxes, around the clock, turned the chest and belly portion of my white t-shirt into shades of grey.
Each one needed to be accounted for: 0020 of 350, 0005 of 350, 0003 of 350. To get to the back of the stacks I’d climb on top of the boxes and Marine crawl, forearm over forearm, until I pushed harder more boxes backward to Hanna, the Swedish intern. The boxes were stuffed in there like gold bars. She and I were operosely looking for label ‘0000/SA’ to replace the Artists & Prostitutes book on the steel table. Lying on stacks of these boxes, we wiggled them loose from a tight placement three boxes wide. Hanna used a rocking motion while the bare opening of her blouse gave me a smiley face. I don’t remember the total amount, but the retail value of these books was around four thousand dollars each. The teamster truck like work reminded me of the walls of boxes I used to take down within sun-cooked truck trailers.
Surprise, an assignment I had one afternoon was to park Pamela Anderson’s white and tan colored leather 90s Range Rover. The handling wasn’t as precise as my German sedan; it was jerky loose like a jeep suspension. After purchasing another Blackberry for David, the new phone had duplicated phone contacts from the transfer. So I deleted the numerous instances of famous people’s digits. What would I do with their numbers anyway? No thank you.
This huge cyclorama looks like a white skateboard ramp. It was packed with covered massive cardboard coffins. Art in boxes ready to be shipped off across international waters were covered with blue tarps like blankets. Lay the epiphanies to sleep, David. There’s so much to see on the playground. Mom my room is clean, O’Lord. Organizing this space was like listening to my mom and doing it for the Lord; both are honored in the space.
The cyc, was like a concrete cave, a sky was airbrushed onto the cool canvas from a previous shoot. Keep it organized as if it were mine. I stacked items like Tetris around the heart graffiti. Thank you Lord! Unsolved mysteries push and pull—slide over the dusty floor. I stood on cinema chairs, rows and rows, footprints on the arm rests to get to the other side. Pass the heart graffiti like a wall ride. Mystery solved. Danny Tenaglia’s obscure mix contained a soulful woman singing over a driving rhythm, “feel it in my soul.”
One heavy-duty metal lifting gate, vertically raised, cocked spring settles into place, between the two towering red brick walls: on our side the brick and mortar were clear unlike the opposing wall directly across the alleyway. Efflorescence coats the bricks like uncontrolled crystalline substances. Footsteps, I took toward the two-yard dumpster dressed with street-kids’ names written with colorful markers beside one another like shoulder to shoulder. Some of their names are documented in an expanding police investigations folder. My eyes trace their loops and detoured fonts from the mainstay of proper prints. There’s a dark brown utility pole with U S A vertically painted in white beside the dumpster with a horizontal security lock. When I filled up this dumpster I’d sneak some extra trash in Siren’s signature candied two-yard dumpster.
Lord, I stood in the alleyway, between LaChapelle and Siren
Unnamed between North Orange Drive and North Mansfield Avenue
Flattened boxes like images beside my running shoes and a pair of woman’s
Turquoise underwear quickly tossed beside the two-yard dumpster
Soiled by blood, down in the dumps, darkened hearts pump these acts
Filthy episodes previewed at the stoplight, running ahead by a lead foot
Stop it’s red, stop don’t go there anymore, stop it’s red, except Jesus
Like a freeway exit, crumb rubber is scattered about on the tough turf
Smashed bottles are heavy gauge glitter, the air thrashed with black soot
People are passing through, no time to mingle if your voice don’t jingle
Sweaty plastic fast food cups, cigarette butts flicked in this direction
Browned by the sun like dry-cured meat, here are the scraps
Perspiration is a shower, hot or cold, where are these
Garments you speak of salvation and praise
Cured by just a sprinkle of your wet-blood
Enough pints to cover the entire world
Raise my hand to you, living dead circulation
Recycling wrongdoing yields piles of junk
While the field’s harvest produces fruit
Dating rings in the oaks of righteousness
Shows me your goodness in the land of the living
My stench, needs aromatherapy by quietly speaking,
Rises to your concert where exchanges of pleasing worship
Entrusted with your love, here below a duty bestowed
Indeed the studio is dirty, indeed the studio is clean
When you return, will you find me doing the same thing?
There’s a black man in the alleyway, a bottle collector
A few direct deposits into his trash—billows and sags
Hanging from the shopping cart like boat fenders
His name is the same as my father’s name, Ken
Be one of the least without notice
Delightfully, this is my hunch
Please the Maker, this will never end
Quickly, I went back into the studio
Massive pallets of newly released
O.N.E. Coconut Water hydrating
Giving a bunch away, delivery same day
Unseal the iridescent, tetra-packs schools
The burning man dances with electrolytes
Living on the beat, walking outside the boat
Bound to meet on these grounds
Fray against aseptic Christianity
Something to drink on the house
In-step like the Spirit
Crushed time like aluminum cans
Providing like dad, an easy opening
Yeah we talked, an easy opening
There’s lightweight dialogue
Over the led foot of the Holy Spirit
“Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.”
My first blister emerged from the skin side of my thumb while tightly gripping the mop handle to dance with the swirling motions of infinity. The blissful place was now coated in slowly disappearing coat of lip-gloss. The sweeping motions of intensive labor kept everything spotless while the owner was out of town. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”. Trembling in awe of the word.
Ran to Rite Aid, Ralph’s, Target, Vacuum store for a Miele filter and an industrial cleaning supplies store called Anawalt off Highland. On the list were two mop heads, ‘pretty’ BIC mechanical pens and paper towels. Garrett, the studio manager at the time, showed me his pictures of Hawaii and the DLC waterfall. His flashlight and lantern painted trees. I sat in between David and a dragon suit. He said, “I could wear it.” The other lady said, “How tall are you?” It didn’t work out.
All around the studio were objects out of place. So as I walked from one space to another, I picked up the objects to identify it. Then I’d put it back where it belonged. Isn’t this what God does for us? There’s ample time to think within the hours of nine am to eleven pm. Upstairs in the prop room, there was an orange and white button down shirt with a DLC insignia. So I put it on. Rinda left me a message. David pinched my bicep. With a meek voice he said, “Are you strong?”
Unless you go deep inside, you’ll be unaware of the ripe orange slices. They’re chopped and chilled on Orange Drive. Over the studio’s booming system Lady GaGa’s ‘Just Dance’ played off the playlist. Just dancing is a form of praise to move beyond the self. Regardless of who’s watching or what the circumstances are ‘rejoice in the Lord and again rejoice’.
The oldest profession is creative expression by the Artist who made us all in his full-bleed image. More than a statement, his declaration of salvation over the prostitutes, from the lowest to the most astute, made us his purified bride by the Lamb that was slain. He gave us his hand in marriage. Spirit paired with the stone that rolled away. Why do I care about the Rolling Stone shoot? Lady Gaga’s bubble outfit is the centerpiece in a pink and purple bathing room orgy. If you look at it you’re going to get in trouble. Let the bubble burst. What’s the worst that could happen? Who first loved us? The suds cover the private affairs. How is anyone with someone else unless they dare? The two page layout illustrates the point that no one is good, not one. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. How does a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word. Lust like late night neon signs. How does a young man keep his way pure? When Annie gives you a job to do. Deep in the heart of the studio, preparations didn’t cease. She gave me white spray-paint to start. She and my strong physique lifted the antique love sofa into the sunlit alleyway. It didn’t happen right away.
My spray technique improved just before the flat white spray-paint ran out. I shook the rattle and took a step back. The second can of glossy spray-paint coated the corralling arm and stubby legs. The final coat of white paint came from an interior paint can. The paint roller lifted from the paint tray took a seat. The first rolls were a little sticky like molding Rice Krispy treats onto a metal sheet. After the first coat the coat count was lost in the motion picture. There’s a spot that needs more paint. There’s another one over there. Down a little bit more. My forearm wiped away my sweaty forehead like windshield wipers. The sun dried the antique love sofa in time for the set to be complete. Annie and I carried it back inside the studio to where it would be stationed along the set walls—big and small white bubbles multiplying by each movement of the whisking airbrush.
Now there’s an errand to run to Western Costumes. One song on the playlist Norman Greenbaum’s ‘Spirit in the Sky’ filled the spacious interior. The lyrics have bold declarations of what happens after the point of death. Each task completed was one step closer. Leading up to the photo shoot were all types of requests that needed to be handled. Preparations for the one of the best creative studios in the world never stopped. Each task had it’s own importance. Along the way, the discovery of love for each mini-job was consecrated for my friendship with Jesus. He’s there in a place that’s the best. The Spirit in the Sky song reminded me of the greater work going on all around me. I was thankful to be a small part of it.
Hop in the truck. The endless rows of costume designs, spanning different eras of time were waiting to fill someone’s idea. In the rear view mirror was an employee standing next to a plastic wrapped metal contraption on the dock. Upon unloading the electric chair at the studio’s bay everyone was excited to see the unusual prop. The death tool of capital punishment was powered by another type of electricity made from methods and melodies. The metal conduit powering up the electric chair electrified Lady Gaga with alternating currents in her head, wrists and loins. Before the bubble suit was properly adjusted my eyes popped when I saw this well-accomplished musician without any covering. Nude is the artistic definition. It was a full moon. Her boogie floated right by me like jello.
Big sheets of moist brownies were dusted with powdered sugar. My hand picked up the daily-recommended dosage. Dreams lived between the strobe’s flashes, lightning fast. Top-notch pops exposing the produced crops. Everything was held in place by sand bags. Grip tape lining the long lines of electrical cords so that nobody would trip. Put up these signs along the gauntlet of apple boxes, people and wardrobe racks to where the genius behind the viewfinder takes the shots. Everyone has joined together and I sense an anointing as fingers are pointing. Adjustments and rearrangements like blooming flowers. Took the shots in perfect sequence of time. Still life.
Crafty people mingling around the smorgasbord styled by a crafty chef kept us happy with good things. He whisked raw honey into plain Greek yogurt. Drizzled over fresh cut strawberries, bananas and blueberries the dairy was apart of the good life. It’s what God gave me. No fairytale.
At the end of the night, it was as if a historic New York City nightclub was retrofitted into the Studio DLC. They’re there and then they disappear. The hand picked beats pulsed throughout the morning darkness were countless like the steps moving in euphoric enjoyment, but these were not vinyl plates. David had a particularly selected play list from many of the artists who are his personal friends. The large capacity iPod with the silver waterwheel highlighted the current track. My fingernails and nostrils were dusty and dirty like it was in the party atmosphere at Arc’s closing all nighter. On cue, the studio is refreshed with trash sweep on cue. These are the duties not seen in the final digital image. Whatever it takes to make these faces look good will do. Here they are highlighted in a pink haze. David’s gaze is a gift, flourishing like flowers in their season, blooming from family photos.
Out of all the assignments, the one chosen from me was to meticulously tag the antique couch a symbolic color. You know I didn’t start off white. It’s not about photography or me. A commandment surfaces from the deep. “Be holy as I am holy.” Lord, this is what you’re calling me to be while the art making glows like racked coals. Everything is blurring, centered on the potter’s wheel, years of molding by your hands, stirring the gift in the eye’s gaze: stillness.
This is how it all happened for Lady Gaga’s Rolling Stone cover shoot. An eyewitness uncovered the glossy cover. The LaChappelle canon increases by one more feature. We are the pinnacle creatures of your story. The final selections were made in Garrett’s office with David, Jeff and I drinking Coppola Merlot wine. Do this in remembrance of me. The magic stick swiveled and waved over the man’s leg. The final image, intently prepped for the press, is glimmering with the stars. The output is not what you think. All high-res. Crazy.
The last week of Indian Summer in Chicago, a brief period of dry and unseasonably warm weather, is when my mom flew me home for Thanksgiving. Fall leaves stop making food for the year and the dissipating chlorophyll produce brilliant yellows, reds, purples, and oranges that brings a vivid celebration of the third season like a festival. The frigid weather is held back. Andrew, my brother-in-law pulled me up to my parents house in this elegant environment. When I stepped out of the vehicle my nephew said, “Welcome home Uncle Kevin” while simultaneously tossing me a soccer ball. It’s good to be home and away from Los Angeles.
Later than night my mom and I drove from Lake Zurich through Inverness to South Barrington, Illinois to attend a New Community service at Willow Creek Community Church in the Lakeside auditorium. The worship began on stage with Brandon Grissom leading the exuberant band to welcome the presence of God. Standing in the center section of the middle row, a couple of songs in I couldn’t help but notice the older gentleman’s left hand raised up in the air as many voices sang the chorus in unison. A still voice told me I should meet this guy.
After the music ended, Dr. Gary Burge told the large audience ask your neighbor how their day went. I told the man that I’m tired from the flight from LAX to ORD, but glad to be here with my mom. Brian Anderson replied with similar sentiment because he had been working at his ministry on the Southside of Chicago. A small dot started to blink on my radar as we both agreed to talk more about it after the message was delivered.
The following day I wrapped around the world-class architecture of downtown Chicago and ended up south on the Dan Ryan expressway; the same route my parents and I went to watch the Chicago White Sox play major league baseball against the visiting team. The Robert Taylor Homes no longer populate the view across from Comisky Park. The long distance is driven to leave the safe distance that exists between where I grew-up and 57th and Lowe Street in the Englewood community. These miles are registered with reflection as I move within the city to volunteer my time assembling foodstuffs for a line of people assembled outside the Shepherd’s Hope bungalow. Distant memories filled my mind with “Urban Plunges” I used to go on to serve in the “inner-city” of Chicago. The receipt continues inch out from the paper roll with original prints.
Around 1991, “Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics” CDs were booming from my room. Plush blue carpeting, fresh water fish tanks lined with neon yellow and pink pebbles surrounded by walls decorated with NFL wallpaper created my comfortable space. Concerned for her son listening to the clever messages rotating abuses of speech, lewd treatment of women and violence influencing my heart and mind my mom said, “Why don’t you go serve in Chicago with Willow Creek via International Ministries if you like city life so much”. Enter Saturday morning Cabrini Green. I’ll never forget my glass sphere shattering like a snow-dome because my privileged life could not be viewed the same anymore.