22. I’m a crepe. I’m a weird dough / What the hell am I doing here?

Radiohead—Creep

Before you go off, filling the comments section with trollish diatribe, please hear me out.

I don’t hate black people. In fact, I love them. I’m a member of NAACP. The African-American race has been downtrodden, disrespected, and slaughtered for hundreds of years, with no end in sight. I stand with blacks on issues of equal rights, equal access, and frankly, becoming regularly accepted, ordinary Americans. Black people in America face terrible problems every day of their lives that those of us with White Privilege can never really imagine.

Nothing I’m about to say should be taken as an attack or as a repudiation of the previous paragraph.

But we’ve got to do something about a prevalent style of behavior that all of you, black, white or other, face, often on a regular basis, and especially if you live or drive in an urban area:

Jaywalking while black.

There. I said it. And you immediately know exactly what I’m talking about:

        • A bus stops at a street corner and disgorges passengers. The light is still green, but a string of black folks walks in front of the bus and straight out into traffic, often without a glance, stopping oncoming cars dead.
        • You are driving in the left lane on a one-way block that is mostly empty of traffic. A black pedestrian a hundred feet ahead of you strolls out from the right corner. You might expect him to stop and let you pass, but instead, he slowly angles across your path to lengthen his journey to the other curb, forcing you to slow and even stop.
        • You are walking down a narrow corridor at a mall. There is a group of young black men in two bunches, one on either side of the corridor. Just as you are about to walk between them, one, seemingly oblivious to your existence, backs up from the group, right in your way, forcing you to squeeze around him.

I know why they do it. It’s often the only way they can exercise power. So much in society is out of their control, out of their hands. But they can count on being able interfere with your car or your route using these tactics. That’s real power! You can stop a vehicle of any size right in its tracks! Like Superman!

And it works, until it doesn’t, and they get run over. In fact, black people are many times more likely to be involved in a car/pedestrian accident than white folks.

Some might want to compare Jay Power with the demonstrations by the Black Lives Matter movement to close interstates, but I’m not one of them. Organized demonstrations, however right or wrongheaded, comprise people who are fully aware of how and why they are seizing power and causing inconvenience or danger.

I’m not sure if Jay Power walking is a conscious thing for its practitioners or an expression of a cultural norm. But I wish it would stop. I wish it would stop before it attracts more attention from biased cops, like those in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown got killed, essentially for jaywalking while black, and where 95 percent of jaywalking tickets were given to black folks.

So, it is with an abundance of concern for the well-being of black people, and to a lesser extent, my own selfish desire to never accidentally run over a Jay Power walker, that I plead with the black community to do something about this dangerous practice. I realize it may not be your top priority but think of the other positive effects of a Jay Power solution: young people who don’t feel the need to act out in this manner because they feel more empowered, and part of a supportive community. They even may be less likely to turn to other ways to obtain power, such as crime, drug use, and other antisocial acts.

Let’s all help stamp out Jay Power walking!

Chip shows up at Charles’s door after reading his latest edgy post in the World. “You just can’t help yourself, can you?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The jaywalking article, what else? You just have to stir the pot, don’t you?” Chip is agitated and brushes past Charles and plants himself on the couch.

“Look,” says Charles as he heads to the fridge for a couple of beers, “there’s being racist, and there’s talking about race—being racial. I was discussing a dangerous practice predominantly, but not exclusively, undertaken by black people. You’ve got to admit, you’ve had similar thoughts.”

Chip has to grudgingly acknowledge that he had. He says, “It’s one thing to have racial thoughts—thoughts that many people would call racist and get all hot and bothered about. It’s another to actually publish these thoughts in a major metropolitan news­paper.”

“We’re talking the World, Chip, not a major newspaper. It’s not even in the top 25 nationally. But that’s not the point. I don’t know why we should be censoring what we talk about just because it has a racial component. Fucking 46 percent of pedestrian deaths are black people, about four people a day! But I’m a bad guy for talking about it, and pleading with black folks to not jaywalk?”

“Well, when you put it that way . . .”

“Yeah. I did put it that way. I know I’ll get hate mail. I’ve got an intern now who reads it. Takes a load off my mind.”

“OK, but does he or she screen out the death threats, bwana?”

“Um, I don’t know,” Charles says uncertainly. I need to find out of Jen is doing that, he thinks. “Anyway, not to change the subject, but let’s change the subject. Did you read my Jeannie chapter?”

“Ah! The redoubtable Jeannie D’Arcy! Yes, I read it, and enjoyed the hell out of the booby sections.”

“Yeah, figures, you dirty old man. So, what did you like about it?”

“First of all, Jeannie is a badass, and I love women badasses. Married one.”

From the interactions he’d had with Trixie, Charles could believe it. She ruled their household with an iron fist.

“And she cleverly uses all her assets, especially her sexuality, to get what she wants. Love that, too. And I especially like the way Jeannie handles Juston with her sexuality. I also like what you did with the Magic Universe stuff. I play, as you know, and I’ve actually never really wondered about the backstories of the characters or how they would manifest in the real world.”

“Well, there is some fan fiction, and official backstories from some cards.”

“Yeah, but I’ve only ever concentrated on the strategy of the game, what cards can do in game action. So, it was interesting to see you personify all that. It also plays out like a real game, with the mana and casting, and especially the Pod Spawner. Good job.”

“Thanks. What did you think about how Jeannie learns to master her powers?”

“Very good. My favorite part that I wish you had drawn out more was her battle with Legion. I think lots of folks will miss the pig mention, but I thought it was hilarious. You developed the mentorship story and the NSA angle slow, and I liked that.”

“And Juston?”

“Juston I also liked. He was kind of a creepy putz at first, but love got the better of him. And the business of freezing Jeannie’s body after she assimilated into the machine was brilliant.”

“OK, I’m cautiously optimistic that you’re not going to have grave criticisms of this one.”

“Well, I could quibble about Jeannie’s take on Eddy and Christian Science. It’s not exactly spot on.”

“Right. But I think there are few believers who don’t reinterpret their religious dogma somehow, at least picking out the stuff they like and deemphasizing the stuff they don’t. Jeannie saw her religion in an idealistic way until it killed her dad.”

“I agree,” Chip says, taking a sip of his beer. “People who read this might get a different idea about how off-the-hook crazy it is, that’s all. OK, here’s something else. You don’t give much detail about the curriculum for becoming a healer.”

“Yeah, there’s not a whole lot I could find out about that. If you think it’s important, I suppose I could try interviewing some healers. But I expect they wouldn’t give up much info.”

“How about healers who have left the church?”

“Good luck finding any. If you do, I’d love to talk to them.” Charles takes a big drink of his beer and wipes his mouth on his sleeve. That was really frustrating, he thinks. Not a word about the training anywhere.

Chip says, “OK, moving on, the Chaos Magick stuff kinda fits, and kinda doesn’t. The part where Juston is trying to teach the basics to Jeannie is a little boring. Do we need all the details?”

“Good point. Part of the reason I go into detail on these weirdo religions is to show just how out-there they are. But I thought I made most of that work, especially as it dovetailed with Jeannie’s Christian Science and the Magic Universe stuff.”

“Yeah, I have to admit, that was an interesting melding of traditions. And, of course, I’m digging on the key role that sex plays in Chaos Magick, and the way you wove that into the dynamic between Jeannie and Juston. You know, I have a saying: Orgasmic reality comes from beyond sexuality. It’s a gift from God. He gives us the peaks of experience, and thus shows the way to happiness. Are you ever as happy as you are when you’re fucking?”

“My memory’s hazy, but I seem to remember loving sex with another person.”

“Do I make you horny, baby?”

“No, Austin. You’re not my type. Definitely. Without a doubt. Even if I was a woman. No way José. Gag me with a spoon!”

“OK, I get it, Moon Unit,” Chip says, laughing. “That brings up a good question: What are the peak moments of your life? Where you either had an epiphany, a blinding flash of clarity, or of just totally being in a joyous moment you wished would never end?”

“Well, there was this one trip with Edie during a sweet spot in our relationship. I had recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of buying a VW Bus camper.”

“No shit? Man, I jonesed for a camper myself back in the day. Was it really cool?”

“Not so much. I was working on my Master’s thesis and wasn’t teaching, so I had a part-time job vacuuming a Sears every morning. Well, half a Sears. Someone else did the other half. Anyway, somehow, I got qualified for a car loan, at 21 percent.”

“Fuck! That’s some shitty loan!”

“Yeah, it was a recession. Home loans were at 13 percent. Anyhoo, the camper was the farthest thing from cherry. It had been rolled, although the guy who sold it to me swore up and down it hadn’t. It looked like it had tumbled off the side of a mountain. I envisioned it happening at this one place on Interstate 70 outside of Denver where the road is steep, with nothing but boulders descending thousands of feet on the other side of the guardrail. The underside of the van looked like had been dragged up on the end of a winch. So, the sink was gone, and the driver’s side door could only be unlocked with a secret rite involving not trying the door to see if it was locked. Plus, the slider would fall off the track if you pushed it back too far.”

“So, it was basically one step above junker?”

“Yeah, pretty much. The engine had recently been rebuilt and upgraded to a whole 2 liters, so I figured it was mechanically sound. Still wasn’t much fun in the mountains, though. Anyway, Edie and I decided to do a weekend up around Mt. Evans, and we hiked up a ways above our campsite, maybe to around 11,000 feet, until we had this terrific view of Echo Lake on one side and the Front Range, and the plains that stretch­ed to the horizon, on the other. Totally magnificent. On the way up, we’d taken some nude photos of each other—I posed for one with my hand shielding my eyes, looking West like a pioneer gazing toward the frontier, with my boner pointing the way.”

Chip guffaws loudly and says, “Magnetic Dick, that’s what I should call you.”

Charles rolls his eyes and continues. “By then we were feeling pretty randy, so we decided to take off our shirts to make a bit of padding and go at it on this bed of moss on top of this peak. I was facing the view across this canyon, with my head up when I came, and it was the most glorious feeling ever! Buns up kneeling, bone in the hole, and ecstatic. Amazing! Afterward, I said to Edie that it was like making love to the whole natural world.”

“Sounds amazing! You prevert!” Chip says. “Let’s see. I don’t think I have any orgasmic peak moments, except maybe the first time I whacked off in the shower. I was pretty naïve about sex and was probably 11 or 12. I knew about boners because I had found a Playboy under a ton of shit on my dad’s closet shelf and had shared it with my buddies. We knew looking at the naked boobs made our dicks hard, but we were not sure about the rest of it other than that fucking was fun. This story could never happen today, though, right?”

“Right,” Charles agrees. “Tons of info on the Internet including come videos.”

“So, I kept stealing the mag in the afternoon and putting it back before my dad came home, but that was getting to be a hassle. Oh, I just remembered. I first saw the magazine when my mom and my sibs picked my dad up from playing golf. My dad put his clubs in the back of the station wagon and then stuck the mag under my seat. He told me, ‘Whatever you do, don’t look under the seat.’ What the fuck! Of course, after he started driving us home, my curiosity got the better of me, and I fished under my seat and got the magazine. I was fascinated. So, I’m thumbing through it, looking at the pretty ladies and my mom glances back from the passenger seat. She goes ballistic, and my dad starts screaming at me that he told me not to look at the magazine. They proceeded to have this huge argument. Seems she took a dim view of porn.”

Charles laughs and nods. “Yup. My mom, too. I can just imagine what she thought when she saw you propped up with a Playboy in the back seat.”

Chip snickers. “Well, I was still too young to be propping much of anything up, if you get my drift. Anyway, I figured if I took the mag for good, my dad would think my mom tossed it out and wouldn’t bring it up. So, I pinched it and hid it under a huge pile of leaves in the back of a friend’s house. I let only a small circle of friends know where it was. It really enhanced my prestige with my buddies to have porn on demand. One day when we went to get it, it wasn’t there. We tossed the whole area. Gone. I grilled my buddies and one admitted he showed the magazine to someone outside the circle of trust. That was my first experience with betrayal, come to think of it. So now, I was totally paranoid that my dad was going to find out I stole the magazine and ask for it back. That bugged me for weeks. But my dad never said a word about the missing mag. I dunno if he thought mom had thrown it out or if he figured me for the theft.”

“So, the shower?”

“Right. Around this same time, I started fooling with my dick in the shower and knew that I could make it grow really big and hard.” Chip strokes the long neck of his beer demonstratively.

Charles snorts and says, “No bragging, microdick!”

“It was huge to me! Anyway, I told a close buddy about this, very naively: ‘Did you know if you stroke your dick in the shower it gets huge?’ My buddy, more worldly than I, flipped out and told me not to ever tell him or anyone else this story. So, first experience with body shaming, another milestone! Eventually, one day, I just kept stroking the thing and it exploded!”

Charles and Chip erupt into peals of laughter. “I thought maybe I’d broken it, but from then on, every day, in the shower, me and Madame Hand!”

After they stop laughing, Charles says, “Well, back to the subject. Any peak moments not involving orgasms?”

Chip says, “I went. You go next.”

“OK. The birth of my son was definitely a peak moment. He was born face up—called for some reason posterior. The intern had known it hours before, but it was news to the doctor. They had to use this suction cup thing to suck onto his head and pull him out, so he had a little conehead when he came out. I used to tell him he was born looking for the stars. But he was so calm. Just looking about. He didn’t cry until they put iodine in his eyes. We had picked a girl and a boy name because we didn’t want to know the sex beforehand. To know his name at once, that was the peak of the peak moment. And I was overwhelmed to at last be a dad.”

Chip gives Charles a high five. “Yeah, I agree. There’s nothing that compares to the birth of your kids for peak moments, that’s for sure. So, let me see. What would I pick for another peak moment? Probably when I was ordained. You see, I kind of had it rough during my time at divinity school.”

Charles asked, “How come? Too much of a renegade?”

“Definitely. But the United Methodist church allows a fair amount of leeway in belief, and in challenging belief. Just not around infant baptism. You know me. I’m a scholar at heart, and of course, I had dug very deeply into the Wesleyan belief that the Bible preferred infant baptism and that it was superior to adult baptism. This is, of course, false on the face of it, since John the Baptist mostly baptized adults, including Jesus. There’s no scripture to stand on either way. There is no definitive evidence in either the New Testament or early church literature that says that infant baptism was or wasn’t practiced by the first generations of Christians. And think about it. Who were the first Christians? Adults. Who were the first conversions? Adults, and possibly their families and households as well, but certainly not exclusively, or even mostly, infants.

“So, my big mouth got me in trouble deep on this subject, to the point that my teachers were laying odds that I’d never be ordained.”

Charles looks puzzled. “I’m confused. What’s the big deal that’s worth fighting about here?

“Well, you rank heathen, obviously this is about John Wesley.”

“Of course! How could I have been so stupid?” Charles smacks his forehead in mock disgust.

“Easily, butt wheeze. Easily. But seriously, Wesley called baptism an ‘ordinary channel’ and ‘prevenient grace’—divine grace that precedes human decision—by which God gets to us. Wesley said it was God’s claim of us before we ever able to choose God. So, the best way to receive God’s grace is to be a baby with no ego to desire God’s love for selfish reasons. And to me, this seemed a lot like the Church was declaring adults who are baptized second-class citizens. And that did not seem like God to me.”

“OK,” Charles says. “I guess I kind of get it. Seems like a silly thing to go all dogmatic on your ass about, though.”

“Believe you me, it was no small thing. I really almost didn’t get ordained. So, when I did, it seemed miraculous. Thus, a truly peak moment of my life. And, of course, I’ve been a troublemaker ever since.”

“No shit, Sherlock!” Charles smiles. “I’m actually really proud of you for speaking truth to power. That took ‘nads, man!”

Chip stands up, beaming, and leans in to give Charles a hug. “That actually means a lot to me that you said that.” He wipes a tear. Charles is wondering why this is such an emotional moment for Chip and gives him a quizzical look. “What’s up, big guy?”

Chip sits back down on the couch. “I don’t know. All these discussions we’ve been having about faith and religion and messiahs . . . I’m kind of coming around to your side, and that worries me.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! I’m not trying to, uh, unconvert you, man! I just love a good discussion. I actually admire your faith. Kinda wish I had more faith myself. And you’ve made some good points for your side, that I’m taking to heart. To me, you personify all that’s good about faith, with all the great work you do in your church, your community, and your counseling. I admire that. Now if everyone were like you . . .”

Chip cuts in, “Wait a minute. We so do not want that! Do you know what kind of world it would be if everyone were like either of us?” The tension breaks and the two men laugh until tears drip down their cheeks.

“Yeah,” Charles says once he stops laughing. “A world filled with crude, cranky, stubborn, intellectual old guys arguing about stuff that can’t be proved. That’d be a fine world!” To punctuate this thought, Chip leans over to one side and lets rip a resounding fart. “Oh, and smelly old guys at that,” Charles adds, holding his nose.

“Well,” Chip says. “A world filled with jokers like us would probably be a more peaceful world—no Napoleons, Hitlers, or Trumps. Just people who are fundamentally good and much less apt to lie, cheat, steal, and murder.”

Charles nods his head. “Yeah, but I don’t think I’d be a great model for a race of people. Couldn’t keep a wife. Can barely hold a job. Can’t manage to write a book. Introverted as hell. You’d be a better template to clone.”

“Well luckily, we don’t need to worry about that, unless some alien descends from the clouds and decides to crank out Charles and Chip clones by the billions. That reminds me of a joke.”

“Of course,” groans Charles. “I know I can’t stop you; I can only hope to contain you. Make it a quick one.”

“That’s what she said. OK. A billionaire had himself cloned many years ago. The boy grew up to have a very foul mouth. The more the son swore the madder the father got. One day, the father got so mad he pushed his son off a high cliff. The sheriff arrested him for making an obscene clone fall.”

“Even though that was short, I’ll never get that minute back,” Charles says with his head in his hands in mock pain.

“That’s relativity,” Chip says.

“What?”

“Einstein said, ‘Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.’”

“Well, you’re relatively sadistic, the way you tell those stinkers.”

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