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Liberace

In 1987 I was a nervous twenty-one year old preacher wannabe.  At the time I was living in Commack, on Long Island,  as a missionary apprentice.  In May of 1996 I  moved to New York, along with five others, as a part of the Adventures In Missions Program out of Lubbock, Texas.  Our original destination was Staten Island.  There we labored for eight or nine months with a wonderful church.  However, we spent the reminder of our eighteen month committment on Long Island due to circumstances beyond our control.

One day we received a call from our friends on Staten Island.  A member of that congregation had died suddenly.  The church there was without a preacher so they called to ask if the minister we were now working with could travel to Staten Island to conduct the funeral service for our brother.  He agreed to do so.  Then he got sick.  That’s when he “asked” (told) me to do the funeral. 

 I had been to my share of funeral’s,  but I had never preached one.  I was terrified.  What could I say?  I asked for help.  Basically my boss wrote the sermon for me.  One of the points I was to make, for the sake of the audience, was that death is no respecter of persons, so you better be ready.  To illustrate the point I was to mention a person everybody knew who had died in spite of their celebrity, wealth, etc.  At the time there were several candidates  who had recently died.   I chose to talk about Liberace for reasons unremembered.  But regretted nonetheless.

So, we’re at the funeral home.  And I’m scared.  Furthermore, my balance was thrown off due to the fact that the funeral home workers insisted on calling me “Reverend Hicks.”  As a good ol’ church of Christ boy they might as well have called me Beelzebul.  I kept thinking, “Am I going to hell for not correcting them?”  Consequently, it was with thoughts of my everlasting condemnation that I began the sermon.

Soon enough I began to find my rhythem although my voice was several octaves higher than normal.  I was feeling pretty good about the lesson by the time I got to my “death is no respecter of person’s point”.  This was how I planned on making the point- “What can we learn from Art’s death?  Blah, blah, blah and finally death is no respecter of person’s.  For example, consider Liberace.  Here’s a man who had it all.  World-wide fame.  Great wealth, cars, mansions, jewels, and just about anything else he wanted.  But, you know what?  (Pause for dramatic effect)  With all of that (pause) Liberace was not able to buy one more second of life (pause) because death is no respecter of person’s.” (Homerun!)

So, I’m winding up and on a roll.  Everything is going as planned.  I swing for the bleachers by saying, “World- wide fame, great wealth, cars, mansions, jewels, and just about anything else he wanted.  But you know what?…”

 During my pause for dramatic effect the widow’s sister hollered out as loud as church bells…

“HE WAS GAY!!!”

It took every bit of self-control I possess to not crawl in the coffin with Art and slam the lid shut. 

And I should have done so because  her initial outburst, for some reason,  loosed that crazy woman’s tongue.  From then on she just couldn’t keep her mouth shut.   It was made worse by the fact she was sitting with the family, not three feet away from me, on the first row.  For the duration of my sermon the family was literally trying to gag her mouth shut with their hands.  But she was a tough ol’ bird (the crazy one’s always are) and  fought them off long enough to maintain a running commentary on the rest of my remarks.  Which I severely curtailed.

To this day I refuse to use Liberace as an example of anything.  Let the dead bury the dead.

Tuesday

trrrying to blog.  verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry sleepy.  sleep – no blog – sleep – no, blog – sleep – blooooooooooooogzzzzzzzzzz

long day.  i’m beat.  see ya tomorrowzzzzzzz

craig

Some days you just can’t win.

In 1991-92 I worked as a missionary in Toluca, Mexico.  Real missionaries learn the native tongue and my bungling of the Spanish language was an indication I was no real missionary.  I just don’t have the knack for learning the barbaric tongues of the heathen.

Case in point.  My shower drain stopped up.  I went to our local tienda (store) for a bottle of drano.  I couldn’t find any though among the chaotic display of goods..  The store owner noticed me searching his store and asked me what I was looking for.  Drano.  I didn’t know the words for drain, pipe or stopped up.  I used what words I did know and after saying them, accompanied by overly dramactic gestures as in a game of charades, the owner nodded his head as if to say he understood what I was saying.  He then scurried off to get what I needed to unplug my drain.  When he came back he handed me a packet of grape kool-aid.  It was good but did nothing for my shower drain.

Case in point II.  I lived in Mexico pre-NAFTA.  Which is to say before it became junior USA.  Consequently we had to shop at an import store to buy products from home.  Of course the merchandise was very expensive and you could never rely upon the import store to have the same thing twice.  So I went native when it came to shopping.  My favorite store was akin to Wal-Mart.  It reminded me the most of home so I often went there.  By the way, after NAFTA, and after I returned to the states, that very store was converted into a Sam’s Club.

When I lived there the name of the store was Aurrera.  If you know anything about the Spanish language and the rolling r’s you can appreciate how hard that word was for this white boy to say.  It required a tongue with gymnastic abilities.  Unlike mine. 

Taxi fare was cheap at the time so that was how we moved about the city.  Jump in a cab and the driver asks, “A donde vas, joven?” (Where are you going young one?)  Well, whenever I said, “Quiero ir a Aurrera.” (I want to go to Aurrera) the drivers invariably could not understand my pronunciation of the word Aurrera.  It gets tiring, not to mention humiliating, real fast.

Fortunately Aurrera shared a parking lot with a well known and popular diner.  It was called Vips.  In Spanish it is pronounced as Veeps.  I learned pretty quickly that the best way for me to get to Aurrera was to tell my driver I wanted to go to Vips.  It worked every time.  Except for the time I actually wanted to go to Vips.

I was meeting some friends, otherwise known in secret missionary code as “contacts,”  at Vips.  Meetings with such contacts look real good in a letter or bulletin to supporters.  I was eager to get there.  I hopped in a cab and the driver asked, “A donde vas joven?”

me:  Yo quiero ir a Veeps, por favor.   (I want to go to Vips please.)

driver:  Donde?  (Where?)

me:  (Oh oh, to myself )  A Veeps!

driver:  Donde?

me:  VEEPS!

driver:  Donde?

me: VEEEEEEEEPS!!!

driver:  Donde?

That’s when I knew in order for me to get to Vips I was going to have to say that other word.  The one with the multitude of rolling r’s. The one I hated saying.  So, I sucked in a lung full of air and said…

YO QUIERO IR A  AURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREDA!, por favor.

First words out of the taxi drivers mouth…

Ah, Veeps!

Which sounded exactly like I had been saying all along.

Yep, I’m not missionary material for sure.

Still not as bad as a missionary friend of mine who served in Belgrade of the former Yugoslavia.  He was eating lunch in the home of some friends/contacts when he was graciously asked if he would like his drink refilled.  He declined by saying no thanks he wasn’t thirsty.  At least that’s what he thought he was saying.  What his hosts heard him say was, “No thanks, I’m urinating.”

Some days you just can’t win.

Happy Feet

I don’t have children so I oftentimes lag behind when it comes to watching movies billed as family entertainment.  Which is not to say I watch movies billed as adult entertainment.  I don’t.  Anyway, I saw Happy Feet tonight for the first time and I confess to crying.  I cried for the fish.  Either way, by penguin or man, dead is dead.

If there are any rich fish out there they need to hire a hollywood producer to make a movie wherein they are the heroic victims.  Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen Nemo but they need something with more punch.  If I was a fish I would write a movie in which my fish family was eaten by warm blooded yet cold hearted penguins who happily chomped up my wife and children.  I would then hire a gang of barbaric, human, vegetarian hunters who killed for the thrill.  After they dispatched with the lovable yet deadly penguin population I’d repay the humans with a lifetime of fish oil to keep their hearts beating healthily till the end of their days.  Don’t worry-not one innocent fish would be harmed to harvest the oil.  We’d simply extract it from those fish on death row or the nearly dead anyway.

I’d entitle my movie “The only Happy Feet are Dead Feet!”

Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have any children.

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