If Doesn’t Kill You, It’s Worth a Buck

Well, last night’s event at The Tank was a load of fun.  Aside from the fact that the venue is a quaint little, absolutely inviting theater space, it’s also a perfect space for readings.  “Just Working on My Novel” was designed by the ever amazing, always entertaining Russ Marshalek, as an outlet for those who have been working on, talking about, or professing a desire to write, a novel.  Each of these events will feature a published author, and I am honored to have been the writer to have had the priviledge to wear the innagural pair of JWOMN shoes.  I started the affair by reading from Anointed and closed it out by reading the first chapter from MY follow-up, Angelic Malcontents.  It was the first public reading of that particular material, and I was elated to have received such a positive response.

The stage at the Tank

The stage at the Tank

As you can see, the set-up on stage was simplistic, and included a weird little Maid/Unicorn Head…thing that was holding a copy of Anointed.  This too, was a Russ Marshalek special inclusion, and I really don’t know what to say, other than it will find a place in a story of mine very soon.  A bizzare, bizzare piece of, well, whatever you refer to it as.Tonight, once more at The Tank, is the religious roast, Fishsticks for Jesus.  It will be a night of comedy at religion’s expense, and I fully expect that there will be much to write about tomorrow morning, when I sit down, groggy, and struggling through words with a cup of coffee firmly in hand.  Then, sadly, it will be time to depart from the Big Apple.  There’s never enough time to see everything you want to see here.  Even with 3 full days, you just pick what you want to see & leave it at that.Today was a lazy day, to be honest.  As a birthday present to MYSELF, I slept in until 9, staggered downstairs to grab as much coffee, yogurt, danishes, and additional creamer/sugar for coffee later, that I could carry and returned to  MY room to relax, and attend to the weighty amount of birthday wishes and photo comments on Facebook.  I stayed there, spent some time catching up with Alice and telling the dog hello, and finally wandered out after noon or so to meet Russ at The Tank.

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12:35 p.m: I arrive at The Tank and proceed to be a complete ass to Russ in front of his Tank cohorts.  He rightfully reads me the riot act, tells Alice on the phone that I am being a stupid dick, and informs ME that he doesn’t work for ME anymore and “doesn’t have to take that shit.”  I realize that he is absolutely correct, and that I apparently don’t have enough caffeine in ME after all.  To Starbucks!

1:33 p.m: The frap helped.  I’m feeling loose and free again, and after a bit of a ride on the trains, we’re in Brooklyn, heading for food and then, Word, Brooklyn’s best little Indie bookstore.  One problem though, which Russ points out with a question that I cannot answer.

Russ: Where are we?

ME: Hell if I know.

Yeah.  Lost in Brooklyn.  And not that, “well, this is the ok part of Brooklyn that you shouldn’t be afraid of,” but rather that, “Oh, dear God, we’re going to die,” area that you would rather avoid.  Yay Russ!  I ask him if it’s ok to hand him back the, “Stupid dick,” moniker.  He grudgingly agrees.  We head back to the train and the Greenpoint stop we should have gotten off at to begin with.

2:00 p.m: We arrive at Brooklyn Label, and I eat the absolute best burger I have ever had in my life.  It’s a neat place, full of character, and Russ pointed out some guy in the corner that is supposedly a famous musician.  Yeah.  Like I would know him.

Brooklyn Label

Brooklyn Label

 
2:40 p.m: We arrive at Word, where we spend an hour shooting the breeze, bashing stupid books, and discussing why James Patterson is sadly the best thing that Hachette Book Group USA can promote.  Well, except for that Twilight thing, anyway.  I buy a copy of The Book Thief, a Young Adult title I’ve been wanting to read since it came out in 2006, and we head out for the G Train. 

There has been an absence of notable excitement today.  Yesterday, after I blogged, I left the hotel in search of caffeine and dinner.  I got down to 8th street, a block away, when I was halted by 3 fire trucks, 4 cop cars, and 2 rescue vehicle, and a throng of people congregated and staring skyward.  I would find out, very quickly, that a crane had malfunctioned (or something like that), and that a netting that was holding broken concrete was threatening to spill its contents onto the road below.  I would find out later that this is not a rare occurance in the City.  I made it past that, only a block further before I saw 2 more ambulances, 2 more cop cars, another large throng, and a considerable amount of blood on the street.  Just past that, a bicycle split in half.  Yeah, man on bike vs. car, car wins.  From what I understand, the guy was beaten, broken, but would survive.  Crazy.  There’s no shortage of entertainment around here.  I look forward to leaving the hotel, just to see what I see.

Alright, all done now.  Need to make dinner plans and get ready for tonight.  More tomorrow morning before I make my way home!

More ME in NYC, Day 2

I didn’t want to go to sleep last night.  For a long time (once I had fully comitted myself to leaving Facebook and the plethora–what is a plethora?–of comments and such from yesterday’s activity) I just stared out the window at the city.  I think I was still in that, “Am I really here” phase that most of us go through when we’ve come to visit an exciting place, or a place we’re excited about because it isn’t exciting at all but quiet because everyone else isn’t  there.  Anyway, I left the shades open, and woke up the minute the light touched the sky.  Times like this, and times like this only, that I don’t mind short sleep.  Thus began the day.  I have no idea where I’m going now, only that I’m about to walk out the door.

8:32 am: I meander downstairs, showered & happy to MY free Marriott breakfast.  Before you get too excited, free, in this instance, is bagels and toast and cereal and coffee.  Honestly, I was happiest about the free coffee.  More so that they had little packages of Coffe-Mate French Vanilla creamer available.  MY caffeinated dessert, what you mortals call coffee, in hand, I was ready to face the day.

10:15 am: While on MY way to the Library, I stop for the 1st of 2 visits to Bryant Park, situated right next door (door? somehow, that seems wrong).  It’s a peaceful place in the morning.  Probably an excellent place to drink some coffee and wake up while people watching.  Hey!  That’s what I was doing!

I can haz nap?

I can haz nap?

 

Hello funny hat man!

Hello funny hat man!

10:10 a.m: New York Public Library.  I didn’t go in, as I’ve been there before & I’m running short on time before I meet Russ at (or around, on Russ time) 11.  Snapped a couple pictures of the lions, and some various shots of the local landscape, but nothing you wouldn’t have seen a bajillion times before on tourist brochures.  I’m beginning to get a little worried about the calm lack of adventure the day is displaying thus far.  What, Monday comes and we all act normal again?  What’s up with that?

10:21 a.m: Walking up 5th Ave, on MY way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral when it suddenly occurs to ME that I’ve been singing the coffee toffee twisted frosty song in MY head for the last hour.  Damn!  In order to purge the madness, I grant the repetitive lyrics to you

Coffee toffee, twisted frosty!

Do you wanna get frosty with me?

10:32 a.m: I arrive at St. Patty’s to discover that MY favorite NYC landmark is still there.  You can never be too sure when religion is involved.  Could have been swept away in a moment of vengeance.  Glad to see that they are renovating some of the exterior.  Most people are aware that I do not believe you can find God in a church, despite the fact that they exist, seemingly, for the that sheer purpose alone.  You can find religion in a church though, and St. Patty’s never disappoints.

Stained Glass in St. Patty's

Stained Glass in St. Patty'sCeiling at St. Patty's

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

 

11:11 a.m: Lunch with Russ at Chipolte’s.  I need about 3 more cups of coffee to keep up with the speed at which he is talking.  Russ, I’m still a Southerner!  Slow down!

12:25 p.m: Russ & I have broken up, though I believe it to be short term.  Once he slows down his speech, we’ll be all right.  I decide to head back to 42nd street, and over to Grand Central Station, since I didn’t have time before, then head back to St. Patrick’s because, well, because it’s so freakin’ awesome.  Aside from the fact that I think of The Day After Tomorrow everytime I go into Grand Central, I rather enjoy it.  It is the pinnacle of activity.  Busy, busy, busy little people scoot around from one to the other, or from one floor to the other, to the fooditorium downstairs, or simply dodging pesky tourists with cameras.  OH!  Actually, the main floor of Grand Central is home to a scene from one of my favorite movies, K-Pax, so maybe all isn’t bad.  The travesty has been undone.  Sorry Mr. Gyllenhal and Mr. Quaid, but that movie just sucked.  Wolves?  Really?  Wolves in NYC? 

1:35 p.m: Back at St. Patrick’s for about 30 minutes.  It’s fantastic to absorb to just sit and absorb the history of the place.  Unfortunately, and by design I do believe, the pews are dreadfully uncomfortable to sit on for an extended period of time.  How can you feel the presence of God if you’re massaging your butt every five minutes!

2:25 p.m: Back at the hotel where I attempted a nap.  No go.  Nap fail.  Too easily distracted am I.  Answer the phone?  Sure!  Text messages, absolutely!  Facebook chats?  Well, I can’t be rude!  Anyway, it’s 5:30 now and I’m about to get ready for night one at The Tank.  I may, and or may not, post pictures and update the blog later this evening.  MY guess is on the no side.  You may just have to wait until tomorrow.  And, hey, whoa!  I totally buzzed a fly today!

I seez you mister flyz!

I seez you mister flyz!

Ok, so maybe it isn’t that cool.  But still, I had to wait a long time for that shot.

Setting the Record Straight

I am going to once and for all, here and now, profess to the be the ultimate source of knowledge, and proclaim to the world without doubt, or even fault of logic, that I have the final answer to the question of whether or not Jesus was real, and whether or not Christianity is religion of stolen ideas.

Really?

No, not really.

Actually, to no suprise to anybody who knows ME, I’m fascinated by the history of Jesus (where do I link that one to?  Geez, how about here?), and further fascinated by the concept of religion as a whole.  Anointed is an obvious example as to how circular MY thoughts can be.  It’s spawned questions from readers, or for that matter some friends, who wish to know whether or not I believe in the story of Jesus as the Christ and Messiah, or to a further degree, if I believe that He exitsted at all.  For the majority of my life, I’ve debated answering that, as any answer supplied, does ultimately require a scathing response.  Anger and resentment from the Christian base, and skepticism and horror from the Atheists.  Religious Indoctrination=Political Bandwagons, can we just agree on that?  Either side of the fence and you’re prone to simply yell for the sake of yelling, should anyone dare to profess a countering opinion.  And, though it isn’t widely discussed, please note that the moderates of both (religion/politics) are growing in numbers, as are the all out skeptics and doubters.  They are opinionated, vocal, and growing more so by the year.

But I’m not here to discuss that.  I believe the Moderates/Independents of both modes of thought speak loudly enough on their own.  Plainly: Don’t piss them off, and you’ll get a considerable distance with your opinons/beliefs.

But what do I believe, and in the end, is it truly important to you, in determining what kind of person I am?  Is it possible for you to spend a day, a week, a month, a year, getting to know ME without ever breeching religion or politics, to the point that we have a mutual respect and burgeoning friendship?  And should you, on that day of discovery, that day a bond is formed, discover that my beliefs in these subjects are not equal to your own, completely rearrange your opinion of ME, to the point that our friendship falters?  To the point that you view ME so differently, that you wonder how we could have ever been friends?

Would you?

Oddly, I know people who have done so to others.

The interesting thing, to ME, about belief is that it’s really a you-centric thing.  Something that is only defined by what you feel inside, which is based entirely upon parental tutelage, life experience, and how much you, as an individual are willing to accept without further study or investigation.  These aren’t the only factors, of course, but they’re pretty high on the totem.  Much as political leanings can be swayed in the formative college years, so too can religious dogma be formed by those who teach us.  You are raised in the church (I keep writing, “chruch”, which makes ME want to say, “peace out”, which in turn, is only funny to ME and one other person), you live the Christian life at home by way of parental control, and as you approach adulthood, you facilitate that structure by blindly believing–largely because it’s the only thing you’ve ever known, and because you’re young, impressionable, and without experience to guide you.  The possibility of a lasting system of beliefs doesn’t reach out to you until you are out on your own.  Then all that you have been, all that you have known, every belief that has defined you, is called into question simply by the experiences you face.  The trials, the suffering, the failure (and despite your greatest wishes, and those of the P.C adults who try to protect you from it, you WILL fail, way more often than you succeed), and the individuals with whom you associate, will ultimately determine what system of beliefs you follow.  And even if 100 of these individuals have a similar path, and similar experiences, and similar childhoods that constructed their early beliefs, they will believe something different from one another.  Atheist or devout Christian/Muslim/Mormon/Hindu and so forth, they will all see their world different from the other, in one profound way or another.  And yet, they will still unite and wish to change YOU, the person who does not believe what they believe.

I believe that is a facet of humanity that is possibly the most bewildering and fascinating aspect in all that we may own.  Those 100 people, if handed a global brush, would paint their world in completely different shades.  Completely different, and completely unique.

Why does that fascinate ME so?  Because it validates, in MY mind, that we have no idea what’s going on, nor do we have any idea, truly, what to believe.  We find something that fits and we roll with it and we hope that we don’t have to ask too many questions, thank you, because then ice cream won’t taste so yummy.  And despite that fact that I believe we all know this in our hearts, we still decide that ours is the utlimate truth and yours is just plain stupid.  Marriages, friendships, families, and nations are destroyed because of this.  Do I expect it to change?  No.  No, that would be an absurd hope, actually.  I mean, human beings have been this way for a good long while, right?  What’s to make ME believe that it will ever change, aside from MY own beliefs?  There’s no historical evidence, nor is there any current example of widespread acceptance.

I’m right and you’re wrong, right?

Hey, here’s a crazy thought:  What if I never told anybody what I believed, and just let each individual decide on their own what to make of me?  What if I didn’t care to the degree that I simply found happiness in MY own ever evolving beliefs (and they are…constantly) and just smiled at your opinions (beliefs?) of ME?  I don’t know.  I ask that rhetorically.  Don’t answer it.  This is MY one paragraph to write something that I might otherwise delete.

Ever heard of MithraZoroastrianism?  Forgive the wiki links, they’re meant as a starting place only.  I ask, and introduce, these questions simply as an illustration that we, as humans, still don’t know what to believe.  Mithra is a Sun God, from the religion known in those ancient B.C times as Zoroastrianism.  He was, it is told, regarded as an equal to the Divine One, created by the Divine One.  Mithra was supposedly born in a cave to a virgin mother, on or around the time that we now refer to as, “Christmas”, and supposedly died on a cross on, or around, the time we now refer to as, “Easter”.  Those that followed him were the founders of a religion that was known as, “Mithraism”, a system of beliefs that became widespread throughout Europe and was widely adopted by Roman soldiers in the first few centuries A.D.  Mithraist followed several tenets of worship:  They believed in the Trinity, worshipped on Sundays, held winter and spring festivals that coincide with our dates for Christmas and Easter, and made the sign of the cross on the foreheads of those who were recently baptised.  Mithra was believed to be the the Savior of the world, who offered a lasting place in Heaven to all of those who followed his path, and professed a belief in his name.  Mithraism was widely accepted and practiced until Emperor Constantine decided (under considerable pressure) in 325 (I’ve also read 313, so there’s some discrepancy here) that all of Rome were now Christians, Jesus be praised.

So, why bother to bring that up?  Am I trying to convince you that Jesus was a myth?  Am I attempting to use Mithraism as a tool to alter your beliefs, or to persuade you that all of Christianity is a fraud? 

Nah.  I’m just fascinated by it, and regard any response you may have to it as a potential illustration to MY point.  Personally, I think it’s important we learn all that we can, so that our beliefs are better defined, and have some semblance of understanding.  Then again, I can fully appreciate the desire to believe what you believe and the rest of the world can just toss it.  It’s the blessing of free will, as I see it.  Such is the gift we are given.  And maybe, just maybe, it’s never been about right and wrong, or denomination, or a true definition of faith, but simply about believing.  In something.  Anything.  Believing so firmly that you are willing to stake your existence on it.  Maybe the true reward is in accepting that, even in a willingness to discuss it with those who believe otherwise, in finding the path that suits your heart and walking it to the end with your head held high, and a healthy does of uncertainty still in your pocket.  Maybe that’s the path to God.  Maybe that’s the path to Heaven.

Or maybe I’m going to Hell.

Have fun, be well, and for God’s sake, believe in what you believe in.