Friday, July 29, 2011

Over Ripe for the Harvest

The inconvenience of working for a living in a convenience store

On the way to my office one morning--that is, in the parking lot in front of the glass menagerie I preside over from eight AM to four PM--I was met by a couple of guys with hefty black Bibles and picket signs. Right. They weren't union organizers, not among the highly-skilled practitioners of my retail craft. A boycott of establishments like my place was in progress because of the lurid sex magazines the franchiser has opted to display at about eye level for a ten-year-old.

Now when I was a boy, the girlie magazines down at Winston's Cigar Store were masterpieces of photojournalism. The women in those magazines looked back at you with enigmatic expressions reminiscent of da Vinci's Mona Lisa. A kid could walk away with an eyeful without feeling women were creatures on the level of featherless birds just hatched, and expendable--pull their heads off and throw them to the cat if you felt like it. The stuff on the racks now is as explicit as a gynecology textbook, and the death and dismemberment in the stories is going to leave you with a pretty foul stench in your nostrils if you read it.

So I'm somewhat in sympathy with the people who would like to cut the association, in their kids' minds, of sex with violence whenever they run down to my store for a gallon of milk. For a few days I went about my work while the Vigilance Trolls were doing theirs. Who am I to criticize? Nearly everything I sell is detrimental in some way. Cigarettes, beer, and wine are just the tip of the iceberg in our sea of toxic substances. Just try to imagine what goes into those sausages floating in the bottle on the counter top. And who is going to protect people from the rest of the magazines on the rack, or the newspapers?

But it's hot out there, and the traffic in my place is pretty slight on some afternoons. You'd think people advertising a boycott would have enough sense to bring a thermos full of something cold to drink. Instead they come inside and anti up three quarters each for Pepsi Colas. So much for the principle of the thing.

"I thought you guys were on a campaign to boycott my porn parlor. And don't you know this stuff is bad for you? It's nothing but sugar water and caramel coloring." They looked at me like I was really a crank.

This goes on for a few days. They sweat and slurp Pepsi while I go on corrupting the youth with my magazines and opera tapes, until one of them realizes I'm gullible enough to maybe join up with their crusade. It shows all over me, apparently. Must be my body language. I like people, in spite of everything, and I will generally hear anybody out. Some of the things they say are pretty wild, but, you know, I come up with some crazy ideas too.

Some of their literature gets into my idle hands. From then on, my carefully protected cubicle of sanity is in jeopardy. I thought I was a Christian, but nobody asked me before they started the interrogation. Am I sure that I know that if I die tonight, I'll go to heaven? Have I asked the Lord into my heart?

Where I go to church we have a prayer book that gives you some idea of what you're in for if you join up for the duration. These guys seemed to think that was more trouble than it was worth. You have to go to the source. E.T. phone home, I guess, is the idea. I had to admire their sense of commitment. After all, they looked like management material, and they could have probably been on a career track with some good company.

They got me to the Revival Meeting on my usual weakness--free music. Maria Castinetta was singing and giving her testimonial. Would I just keep an open mind, and come along for the ride? This blond prima donna was great on the old recordings available at the public library. At the Revival she came in wearing a leopard skin coat. In the middle of August!

I admit, the air conditioning was on a little too high in the red-carpeted auditorium. When Ms. Castinetta got down to business, her singing was over amplified, and it wasn't what it used to be. The bloom of youth was gone from her top notes, and a wide wobble had developed in the voice. If what I had heard on the recordings was the bloom of youth, this was the last rose of summer. Too many seasons blooming on the battlefield at the Met had withered her.

I'm not saying that only has-beens end up at revivals. I was there, and, so far, thank God, I never have been. Over a thousand people must have been crammed into that auditorium for one grand fandango of everything gaudy and tasteless you can imagine. Besides the opera diva, there were a couple of ball bashers from the world of the sports arena. They were built like the Gladiators who used to massacre Christians.  Then the businessmen started hyping Jesus as if he were another contestant in the ring with the big cola contenders. You can see why these churches are growing; they outdo every hypester on the continent at his own game.

After Ms. Castinetta's heroineic exertions, the music got worse and worse. It was appalling. Grandioso e Pomposo doesn't come close to describing it. Electronic synthesizers flooded the room and half of outer space with god-awful noise--an argument against the existence of God if I ever heard one. Why does He permit it? If God is good! The monstrous spiral was winding down into some abysmal black hole. As the artistic holocaust came to an end, in a moment of blessed relief, a preacher's voice began to extend an invitation to all present who had not made a decision for Christ.

"Come all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and in me, you shall find rest for your souls." This is it! I thought.

I had to take more medication for my nausea, but I got down there. In the heat of the press--thank God now for that air conditioning--I was found and ministered to by a couple of volunteers. Seriously wounded, I was dragged from the battlefield.

No comments:

Post a Comment