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Proper NBA Loyalties for Fans in Buffalo

Proper NBA Loyalties for Fans in Buffalo


Okay Buffalo, it’s time we had that famous chat. You know the one: The talk about the Hawks and the Hornets. I know many of you follow the NBA, and an uncharacteristically good piece by Bucky Gleason in The Buffalo News recently might be causing new feelings to well up in a few of those who don’t. You’re going to begin noticing new teams, and it’s important that if you start to follow basketball, the team or teams you choose to support are the right ones, not simply the most convenient ones. And sadly, Buffalo, I see a lot of you shacking up with the convenient team – the Celtics. Sure, they look good and have a come-hither history and appeal. But you already KNOW they’re not the right team. I know they’re sexy: The spectacular fundamentals of Larry Bird; Bill Russell leading his team to 11 titles, including eight straight; 17 titles; the arguable greatest basketball coach ever, Red Auerbach. We need to get one thing straight, though: They’re from Boston, and you’re Buffalo. You’re the one city on Earth that, instead of trying to attract new residents by trying to convince them you’re as good as New York City, tries to attract new residents by presenting yourself as the polar opposite of New York City. And yet, you don’t have enough sports pride to stay away from those sports whores in Boston? The home of the team that you hate more than any other, the New England Patriots? And the Boston Bruins, who you also hate? And the Boston Red Sox, hated by Buffalonians with Yankees allegiances, which is probably around 65 percent of you?

Buffalo, you have a deeper and more complex history with hoops than most people realize. Two different NBA teams – the Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers – kicked off their lives right in your backyard. And when you pick teams, your go-to-the-best approach makes every victory hollow and meaningless. You need to pick a team that exemplifies your ethos, or that you have a real connection to. I cheer for a grab bag of different teams, all for different reasons: The Philadelphia 76ers drafted a player, Damone Brown, who went to my high school; I lived in Chicago and have a remaining loyalty to the Chicago Bulls; New York Knicks games were an escape for me when I moved back to Buffalo, so I’m connected to them too; I admire the ethos and adaptability the San Antonio Spurs have constantly shown in becoming maybe the best team in the NBA; I started watching the Golden State Warriors after their upset of the Dallas Mavericks in 2007; and I just have a soft spot for the Portland Trail Blazers. None of those teams are the Boston Celtics, and do you know why? It’s because I have a respectful loyalty to my sports heritage. So without further ado, here are some alternative teams that people from Buffalo should consider adopting:

Brooklyn Nets
Let’s be honest: The Nets were a much more appealing choice back in 2012, in the buildup hype to the grand switch the New Jersey Nets made to the Brooklyn Nets. The Brooklyn name was seen as trade leverage and a strong free agent lure, the Nets had just made big trades for Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, and Carmelo Anthony was firing up the rumor mill. That doesn’t change a few things, though: One is that my Damone Brown ended up playing for the Nets at one point, so there’s a connection with a Buffalo native. More importantly, though, is the fact that the Nets can easily be imagined playing and representing anywhere in New York. Their look and style could play as well in Rochester or Binghamton as it does in Brooklyn, and their arena has that same kind of look: You could see it slapped in the middle of downtown Buffalo if the Sabres didn’t exist for them to share an arena with. As Buffalo tries to make itself stand out from the shadow of New York City, so do the Nets still fight with chips on their shoulders for attention from the older, more established, and more regal New York Knickerbockers. Buffalo, you ARE the Brooklyn Nets.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Okay, maybe the idea of adopting a team from New York City is a little off-putting. I don’t blame you. So if it’s a Buffalo-like place you’re looking for, I don’t think any two cities in this country hold a closer resemblance to each other than Buffalo and Cleveland. Hell, the two of you share a lot of the same vein of sports pain. Plus Cleveland is just a three-hour drive down the road, so who not do the sensible thing and call the Cavaliers your team? They have LeBron James, who is currently the best player in the NBA, so there’s that. After years of hard luck, they also appeared in the Finals twice in the last ten years, both times losing series which were effectively unwinnable. And their hard luck is another part of who they are – since bad luck affects Buffalo’s sports teams to the extent that Buffalo and Cleveland compete with each other over which one has worse sports luck, you can’t sit in Buffalo and pretend you’re going to just adopt a team because it’s the best if the teams you have skip town. No, if the Bills pick up and go, I know a great many of you will find solace in the Cleveland Browns, just because to god there is no zero. Also, the Cavaliers were created in 1970, the same year as both the Sabres and the old Braves.

Portland Trail Blazers
Not looking for a place with such strong Rust Belt connections? Well, the NBA has another good team for you! The Portland Trail Blazers entered the NBA in 1970, the same year as the Cavaliers and Braves – and, as mentioned, the same year the Sabres came into the NHL. If you want underdogs, the Blazers are a great team to support, with Portland sitting in the shadows of Seattle and Vancouver and people frequently forgetting the Trail Blazers exist. However, that doesn’t stop the locals from vociferously supporting the team and following the NBA in the hope of a second title. Okay, there are better sales pitches, but if a Buffalo connection would be one of them, there’s always Dr. Jack. Jack Ramsay coached the Braves through their best years before taking the reins of the Blazers and leading them to their first – and to date, still their only – title, a massive upset over the Philadelphia 76ers in 1977.

Philadelphia 76ers
In relative terms, the last three teams are a little on the young side, and maybe you’re interested in a team with a bit more of a pedigree. Pedigrees don’t come much stronger than with the Sixers. This is the team that invented modern basketball by thinking up the shot clock. It’s the team of Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, and Allen Iverson. Aside from being the team that drafted Brown, the Sixers have another serious upstate New York connection: When they entered the world, they did so as the Syracuse Nationals, and were moved to Philadelphia after it became clear that Syracuse wouldn’t be able to sustain a professional major league franchise.

Detroit Pistons
Here’s your Buffalo connection: Bob Lanier. He’s a local legend with Bennett High School. Afterward, he became a legend at St. Bonaventure, where he led the Bonnies to the Final Four. While the Pistons have had an up-and-down life in the NBA, their up years tend to resemble the best years of the Bills – people stand up, look, and listen to the noise because they’re crazy good. When they’re not winning, they only get backhanded mentions on ESPN, are lucky to be featured in a national broadcast every three years, and are generally only spotted after a galactic screwup. If there’s another Bills allusion you want, the Pistons wear the same colors as the Bills – red and blue. But perhaps their biggest selling point is that they represent another downtrodden Rust Belt city; Detroit holds many of the same values as Buffalo and has the same sense of civic pride, both in what it once was and what it’s rebuilding itself to be again. The Pistons also have a history – they began in Fort Wayne, Indiana as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons and predate the NBA. Their first two titles were won in 1944 and 1945 in the NBL, before the creation of the NBA; or the creation of the BAA, the league the NBL eventually merged with to create the NBA. There are also three NBA titles, all won with the same ethos of good fundamentals, smothering defense, and placing the good of the team ahead of the individual. On the downside, you may have reservations about cheering for the team of the infamous Bad Boys…

San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are the odd man out on this list; hell, I spent years hating (but admiring) them before being forced into an about-face during their duels against the Wade/James/Bosh Miami Heat. Their appeal to Buffalo is that they have long exemplified the teamwork ethos of the Pistons to much greater effect (they beat the Pistons for the 2005 NBA Championship) and, since Buffalo is not a place where people enjoy showboating braggadicio, their quiet, respectful, and professional manner is something to be emulated. Think of them as the Bad Boy Pistons with more stars and less bullying. When was the last time you saw a Spurs player make the news for blowing his top or committing a crime? That’s right. So good, and still low-key enough to be one of the most likable teams in the NBA. Even their fans don’t run around flinging shit. The downside is that that’s a pretty weak connection. The Spurs have no Buffalo connections. None. San Antonio is nothing close to Buffalo, and it shares its state with Dallas. Furthermore, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is the NBA’s equivalent to Bill Belichick – he’s a tactical mad genius who adjusts, adapts, and uncovers strengths and weaknesses with almost supernatural savvy. (Albeit, he’s Bill Belichick without the arrogance, or the drive against the league which frequently causes him to run up scores, or the cheating, or the lack of sportsmanship, but still.) The have one of the greatest players as their lynchpin with Tim Duncan. They routinely destroy every other team in the NBA, and are forever the league’s preeminent threat because all the guys who are supposed to get old just won’t fucking get old! Could they be… The New England Patriots? (A much nicer version of them, at any rate?)

Golden State Warriors
Cliff Robinson, who played in the NBA for 18 years, played for the Golden State Warriors from 2003 to 2005. He was born and raised in Buffalo and played his high school hoops at Riverside. Also, just before Steve Kerr started coaching the team, the Warriors were known as a lightning-fast, run-and-gun offensive team, much like the old Braves. It’s a pretty common thing nowadays to see sportswriters who saw both to compare the two of them. If you want a shout-out to a hockey team, the Warriors wear blue and gold as their colors and are the only team in the NBA to wear their jerseys like hockey jerseys, with the team logo prominently featured on the front.

New York Knickerbockers
Proximity is the name of the game here. Media proximity, at the very least; the Pistons, Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, and maybe the Sixers are all closer by distance than the Knicks. But it’s the Knicks that get their games aired on MSG, the same network that shows Sabres games, and that makes them the easiest team to follow in Buffalo. In fairness, YES broadcasts Nets games, but that’s primarily a Yankees network, so you can figure out which team is getting the emphasis should there be a scheduling conflict. And MSG wants watchers to be familiar with the history of the Knicks – they always show old tapes of the classic dynasty of the 70’s (you DO old, Buffalo, your commitment to old keeps setting you back 20 years) as well as the best highlights of the Ewing era. And the way the team is being run these days will remind you of the way the Bills were run in the Tom Donahoe years and their aftermath.

Los Angeles Lakers
Are all those titles really THAT important to you? Fine. Here’s the Los fucking Angeles goddamned Lakers. Now go take a front-run on the Skyway.


Explaining the Appeal of Donald Trump

Explaining the Appeal of Donald Trump

Anyone who is denying the seriousness of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign now or arguing that he’ll lose at this point is in denial. Trump has morphed into the rampaging elephant with wings. He’s sitting at the top of the polls and looks like a safe lock for the nomination, but there are still people continuing to lie to themselves about the possibility of a Trump presidency. I don’t mean the everyday neighborhood butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers, either; I mean full-fledged politic-heads who are versed in the nuances of the Geneva Conventions and Human Rights Constitution are going on the Tube and launching into blithering dumbass mode in efforts to talk themselves into evidence against Trump being real. They can give all the lectures in the world if they want, but they’re exemplifying Kurt Vonnegut’s famous statement about how lies become true if they get repeated often enough. It’s probably a self-survival mechanism.

People are acting like the rise of Donald Trump is some big surprise, but if they had been paying attention, it would have shown up right in front of their faces years ago. For me, this isn’t even hindsight. This is the horrifying climax of a stunt Trump pulled just before the last presidential election. He had threatened presidential runs before, but never with such an intensity. I’m not sure anyone noticed, but Trump was drawing some passionate crowds five years ago. I openly said that if Trump decided to ever run for President, there was a good chance he could win. Everyone I told that to laughed me off. Of course, now they’re pretending I never said anything like that in the first place.

It’s hard to take satisfaction in watching this whole sorry political episode pop into fruition. Since I understand international politics and come from a place that doesn’t, its been easy to read into Trump’s main selling point: That wall. The Trump Wall has been the only consistently detailed idea Trump has been using. It’s all he’s needed, with occasional lip-synching about how he’s just going to hire the best and brightest to do his thinking for him. (Because no other President has ever done THAT before, right?) People can and HAVE argued that the other Republican candidates are worse for the country, but there’s a reason they aren’t as scary as Donald Trump: It’s because Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and John Kasich all have a sense of civil servitude. Say what you will about their policies, but they all come across as being part of the race for a chance to make America great again. A Trump presidency would be four years of a bullheaded ego with no sense of feasibility or humility. The Trump Wall is the perfect example of it. Donald Trump says he’s going to build a big wall along the Rio Grande to keep the Mexicans out, and that he’s going to make Mexico pay for it. Now, this is a fairy tale. Mexico is already laughing it off, and the question of what Trump will do when Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto takes him off the speed dial hasn’t been addressed. Will Trump have the good sense to just leave it alone? Or will his ego cause him to spend trillions of US dollars on an invasion with our depleted Military to force Mexico to comply? Trump is already famous for his inability to shake off personal insults. What happens if he gets control of the Military? Going to extremes here, think a two-front war against the European Union and the Chinese which we don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. Then consider that he’s already been thrown out of England.

There’s a reason Trump is doing so well, though, and it has nothing to do with his brand name. It has a lot more to do with the fact that he doesn’t hold rejects from The Jerry Springer Show to any moral failings they have. I’m not silly enough to believe Trump has any conscious grasp of sociology, but if you’re a white person who’s in extreme poverty, the views of you don’t exactly run the gamut: You’re seen as either a personal failure who made bad choices or a moral failure who deserves everything bad that comes your way. There’s no consideration for surroundings, upbringing, or mental programming; you just suck. Yes, Donald Trump is taking advantage of stupidity, but he’s effective because he’s not running around saying that his potential constituents deserve to be sleeping in the beds they made for themselves. Other politicians and intellectuals keep telling bottom-rung whites that it’s their own fault they live down there. Trump is the only one who is telling them that everything is not their own fault, it’s someone else’s, and that’s music to the ears of people who get treated like disposable napkins.

Since there are a lot of poor white people who have educations comparable to those of any poor minority people, Trump has an easy sell. He’s not a politician, but he’s pandering to millions of people who don’t know anything about politics. That’s key: Donald Trump can easily sell himself as less a presidential candidate and more of a messianic figure or magic man who has solutions or ideas BECAUSE he’s not involved with politics. There are a lot of people who believe the President is supposed to be a wizard, and that’s what Trump is selling himself as. Trump himself seems to believe this; he’ll snap his fingers, and all of America’s problems will go away. The fact that trying to play politics will involve doing politics will be lost on everyone, including Trump himself, a fact which his head strategist took note of – before quitting his campaign because of it.

Our own Americentrism is also playing a part in it. The United States is only arguably the superpower it used to be, and with the rise of both the European Union and China, other countries aren’t exactly quaking in their boots at the prospect of pissing off the Americans anymore. We like to play up our victory in World War II as a statement to just how awesome we are, but there are a couple of points worth considering: The first is that the historical record says less “the United States won the war” and more “the United States provided a huge assist to the Soviet Union by hammering the western front in Europe and then island-hopping in the Pacific.” The second is that World War II ended in 1945, and our record since then has been putrid: We fought the Koreans to a draw, fought an eight-year stalemate in Vietnam before figuring out it had nothing we wanted, and bungled two invasions in the middle east. Yet, we still fly on the belief that we’re the best and only superpower in the world, and Trump exemplifies that ethos. Not a man who has often been shown paying respects to other cultures or people, Trump is the perfect Ugly American. He and his followers still believe that others will automatically pay deference to America no matter where they are because… AMERICA! Trump believes himself to be immune to criticism, and that little bunnies should and will dance paths for him everywhere he goes, which is a common idea in this country.

When all that is taken into consideration, the question isn’t “how is a guy like him able to make a serious bid at the presidency?” It’s “How did this take so long?”

The Breaker

They’re words, Nicholas. Just words. You know words. You like them. You’re great with them.

Yes, but those words can have a heavy impact.

What’s the difference between these words and any other word he’s said before?

He’s spent years carrying a torch for the person he’s saying them to.

So it’s a girl. Nothing he’s never done before.

This isn’t like the girl he asked out after a booze-inspired baseball bar argument or the receptionist he bailed on an assignment to go out with. This is someone he knows, values as a friend and a person, and wants her to continue thinking highly of him…

The idea of a crush is such a simplistic thing, isn’t it? It’s when you have some sort of attraction to a person. But there are different kinds of crushes. There are those crushes from afar, where you see the other person and become infatuated with them, but aside from occasional pleasantries, you don’t speak to them very much and are therefore free to superimpose characteristics onto them based on both your own preferences and the little you do know about them. I know those crushes and like them because it doesn’t take a lot to ask the other person out. You ask, and ideally, they say yes; if they don’t, it’s easy to return to your regularly scheduled lives.

Unfortunately, the kind of crush I usually specialized in developing was the other kind: The ones that gradually develop on people you meet and who become parts of your regularly scheduled lives. Those are vicious, because with these people, you know you’re not superimposing – you know them pretty well and you’ve fallen for the entire package: Personality, beliefs, ideals, and yes, looks too. These crushes eat you alive because these people are close to you, and you’re glad they’re close to you because your friendship means something to you both. But this friend doesn’t feel the same way about you, so you get left with a front row seat to them not knowing how you really feel.

For years, I’ve had a surefire way of dealing with that second kind of crush: I’d let it fester and grow, dreaming wistfully of the girl in question while chickening out every time I had some sort of opportunity to ‘fess up. Then the girl would fall out of my life in some way or another and I would pummel my heartbreak into a nice, concentrated little rage ball, shoving it down into the part that I reserve for my deepest and darkest secrets. It did its job, and eventually, I would forget about my crush without ever having to say anything. Sure, I would always end up regretting it and hating myself that much more in the end, but it was all worth it in order to avoid the prospect of being gently turned down by someone who still liked me, respected me, and wanted to be my friend no matter what.

My last one began the same way many of the other ones did – innocuously. I wasn’t expecting it or looking for it. It wasn’t some love-at-first-sight thing. I’m trying not to give too many details about her away because I’m pretty sure she’s going to be reading this, so that makes it a bit tricky, but… When I glanced at her for the first time, she was another newcomer that I would be saying hello to. Nothing unusual, although her Amy Pond-like profile warranted a second glance. Other than that, I wasn’t thinking about her in any other way. Welcoming the newcomers was something I just did, and besides, I was trying to mentally flay my previous crush out of myself. (I know, I know, but that one was one of the very rare cases where my excuse was actually valid.) In any case, I did talk to her and welcome her to the club. And I talked to her regularly when she decided she liked us enough to keep returning.

Somewhere along the line, it became one of my hobbies to help people I barely knew move. That was something that happened in this case. She was looking for a few good people to help her put her things onto the truck, and I was more than happy to lend a hand. It allowed us to have what was probably our first extended chat, a moment where I was able to have my first glimpse of her intelligence, quirkiness, and depth of character. I knew afterward that she was someone I could get to like, and slowly but surely, that’s what happened. Before I knew what hit me, I had another new crush to suppress. And when my previous one sort of dropped out from the area, the new one supplanted her and started wringing out my heart. So what did I have to do to face this one? Well, again, I didn’t do anything. My return home was imminent and I would never have to face it. In Buffalo, she drifted from my mind – though never quite managing to escape it, she was out of sight far enough for me to believe my crush on her had floated itself into submission.

Matters of the heart frighten me because it’s so difficult to understand them. Part of that is the feeling of sheer worthlessness I’ve struggled with for years; I’ve often wondered what, if anything, I would ever be able to offer as a boyfriend. Indeed, sometimes even as a person. Another part of that is because I tend to be analytical – I don’t believe in problems that can’t be solved with the right information at hand. When dealing with attraction and love, though, I don’t have any control whatsoever over the outcome. A girl will feel for me what she feels for me, and there’s no magic combination of actions and words which will ever change that. So it feels to me like gambling against the house – there’s an outside shot, but I can’t do very much about it. So I was less than enthused when I got out west and started reaching out to contacts, saw her picture, and felt my heart flutter. This crush wasn’t gone. It had merely been dormant.

The original plan, of course, was to ignore it and let it run its course. When I first started reaching out to her, I didn’t intend to say anything. Here’s something about me, though: I’m mental. I have a variety of weird junk running around in my head that manifests itself in ways that aren’t especially good for me. Here’s another thing: My Mother knows that. And when New Year’s Day came along, she made me promise to do something for her: Learn to love myself. That was going to be some trick; I had no idea how to do that. When I contacted her again believing my time here might have run out, it occurred to me that a sizable chunk of my problems happened because I was too much of a coward to say anything to girls I liked. Sure, I had been on blind dates, asked out girls after bar arguments, and once ditched an assignment to go out with a receptionist, but those were entirely different – even the receptionist, a person I interacted with regularly, was another superimposition. So once I suggested we meet, my brain started making wild suggestions: Hey, you know, you should tell her you like her!

Often as I threatened to stab my brain with a pencil for saying such outlandish things, there was something about the idea that I couldn’t get around: Suppressing my feelings wasn’t exactly making me dance through flower fields. It was a ritualistic pattern that was hurting more and more as it went on, and even though the prospect of looking my friend in the face and telling her that I liked her was one of the most daunting things I ever faced, I knew I would have to do it… Well, sometime. Within the next two crushes. Three, maybe. No more than five. After I was finished being overtaken by panic at the thought of doing that, I figured out exactly how I was going to drop this little bombshell: Just say it, no fuss, like ripping off a Band-Aid: RRRRIIIIIIIPPPPPPP!!!!! Surely she wouldn’t even notice! With that now settled, I immediately started coming up with about two dozen romantic comedy speeches for the occasion, at least between all the times I wasn’t deciding to chicken out or asking myself, Do I have to?

It felt like I was coming to a new decision about this every hour. Yes – you don’t know if you’ll ever have a chance to do it again. No – what sort of goddamned sense does it make to be a romantic, anyway? Yes – this ridiculous pattern of mine has to go. No – you might get stabbed in the throat… And so on. At the same time, I was also trying to manage my expectations. I figured around even odds for her either stabbing me in the throat or swooning into my arms, begging me to run away to Vegas with her on the spot to elope. Both of those reactions would have freaked me out anyway; although I admit that in the latter case, my attempt to talk her out of it never would have made it past the third sentence. I figured the two most likely reactions would be a soft rejection in which she told me she didn’t want to be anything more than friends, or some sort of sign that told me it would be okay to follow up by formally asking her out. Really, though, the thing I was hoping for most was that she wouldn’t be angry or upset with me, because no matter what happened, I valued her as a friend and liked her company.

Finally our coffee meeting came, and I sat in a Barnes and Noble reading in a corner and debating with myself about whether or not to actually go through with it. No. Yes. No. No. Yes. Yes. Next thing I knew, I peeked up and…

“Oh, it IS you!” There she was, and there was no way in hell I was saying anything. I choked on a yelp and somehow averted the sudden urge to dive behind my chair and deny my linguistic abilities. I managed to calm down, though, and both speak with her and internally fight with myself. No. No. Neil Gaiman. Yes. Maybe? Nomadic Matt. Huh? I must be stupid. Portland is awesome. Yes. Sure yes. Changed my mind again. If she stabs you in the throat… She’s not going to stab me in the throat… Yes. Double yes… There’s no way in hell I’m gonna be able to keep this in.

Finally, on the way off, I screamed it. It didn’t have the regular tone, pitch, or feel of a proper scream, but that didn’t make it any less of a scream.

Much of what was said next is still a bit of a blur to me. A lot of it was an odd combination of rambling, trying to say more but not quite getting it out, saying things the wrong way, and trying to justify my existence. All those romantic comedy soliloquies flew out the door. She took it gracefully, saying she only ever thought of me as a friend – albeit being very flattered – while also saying how much courage it must have taken me to come clean. (It did.) My world didn’t suddenly careen off its axis and fly into the sun. I hadn’t lost anything from my mind that was there before, and the pattern that I had been locked into was finally broken. Although I’m not sure I said anything good in the ensuing conversation, I knew that this wasn’t going to scar me for life. Being turned down wasn’t wonderful, granted, but I finally declared out loud that I believed I had something to offer a significant other.

It’s not the first time I’ve had to live with friendship. It was the first time I essentially chose it by acknowledging what I felt instead of letting my feelings keep hurting me. She wasn’t mad or repulsed or, really, she didn’t react in any of the ways I feared. Hell, I’ll take her friendship over being cut from her life; after all, she did seem to grasp the fact that, in my context, this was monumental. She was the one I decided to break up a self-hating pattern that was hampering my personal life.

As I drifted to sleep that night, I conjured her images – replaying the events of the day, and events from our past. It was a little haunting, but somehow also comforting to watch her float by as a formless version of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” wafted in from a place that only I knew.


Grace Commons Loses its Talisman

A random Sunday in October of 2006. I sat at one of my usual haunts, the quirky little brick-and-wood spot addressed at 1741 North Western Avenue in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, wondering where the hell World Can’t Wait had trotted off to this time. It was the second time this had happened – I had been given one address by the political group and told they were meeting there that Sunday, and they went someplace else without me.

So I was sitting there, nothing to do, not willing to make the return trip home because I had just dragged myself a half-mile while getting licked by the bitter winds. My health was already getting under the weather. Fortunately, no one seemed in any hurry to shove me out the door. The first person I saw was Nanette; now, I knew Nanette strictly nominally as the friendly hipster artist who was also the acting barista at the Monday jazz shows that flowed into the World Can’t Wait room’s thin walls. I thought I had a fairly accurate read on her through our brief drink and pastry exchanges then. She clearly had to be one of the many people in the building connected with the Near Northwest Arts Council. Had to be. Had that vibe.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” she asked me that day.

“Sure,” I said. I didn’t think I was in any condition to turn down an offer of tea.

Nanette brought me the tea and, as she turned to leave, casually added “Oh, we’re having a prayer service at 5. You’re welcome to come if you like.” I could swear it was an afterthought.

Whatever, though. I wasn’t planning to head out anytime soon, and I had nothing better to do. A prayer service might be good for a few yuks, at any rate. Why the hell not?

Well… My life was changed for good after I left. I couldn’t describe what about the service hit me at the time, and I still can’t. I walked into the service room flying high on some 18 months of declared, anti-religious atheism after getting pissed with two different dogmas. I thought I was done. Instead, that Sunday invitation turned out to be the beginning of a whole different path which I’ve been walking ever since. It was my welcome to a unique spiritual community called Wicker Park Grace, and it quickly became one of my life’s centerpieces. My involvement there made me a better person in a few ways, some of which I’m certain I don’t know about yet.

Anyway, of all the qualities I attached to Nanette the way I saw her then, Presbyterian Minister was among the last on my list. I figured the initial prayer service I attended was some kind of novelty thing; not a weekly meeting. Nanette, though, said she ran services like that every week, and when I returned the next week, Nanette, me, and a handful of other people sat down in a small room. You know what the service was? The small lot of us sitting down, eating dinner, and talking about the various questions and problems we all had about scriptures. I finally got to ask about all the problems I had with the two different religions I had followed in my life to that point, and had used to hammer fundamentalists afterward. It was the first time anyone ever took my questions and comments seriously. The congregation of Wicker Park Grace wasn’t there to crush opposition to religion by insisting that I just believe, or that I wasn’t reading something properly; the earliest form of the church that I knew there was just as confused, angry, and misfit as I was, and just as eager to get to the bottom of the scriptures they were familiar with.

Nanette never tried to stand pat with testimonies and reaffirmations of faith. In fact, she was the one leading us through some questions and into even more questions. For a working class kid raised in a staunch literalist religious atmosphere, this was unheard of, and it was because of this that Nanette managed to do something no other Minister I ever met had managed: She got through to me. She made me think. She challenged everything I thought I knew about religion previously, through both my experience following two different faiths and then turning my back on them both.

The new way I discovered of looking at religion had a remarkable and unexpected effect: It made me appreciate the positive aspects of the religion I was raised practicing again while managing to reinforce my atheism at the same time. I wasn’t the only person at Wicker Park Grace who started to wonder if there could ever be such a beast as a Christian Atheist. Christian Atheism or not, though, all the barriers that mentally kept me from questioning in the past finally broke down, and I began to appreciate the fact that I could be a perfectly flawed human being and still be a halfway decent person.

I had had several Ministers in my past, but Nanette is the one I consider my first real Minister. She managed to find a new life for my weather-worn soul and prevent a third form of unofficial religious dogma from taking hold of it. I learned that I liked asking questions about the big issues of religious faith and upsetting the natural order, and Nanette gave me the first real outlet I had to do that.

Wicker Park Grace grew and eventually moved to a different building, establishing a new form as Grace Commons. But people have this funny way of moving on, and Nanette was eventually installed as the Minister of a whole new congregation. Grace Commons moved yet again soon afterward, its members moved into areas of Chicago more difficult to reach – and sometimes out of Chicago altogether – and everything that Grace Commons established started falling apart. The last time I managed to get to Grace Commons, services had become bi-weekly affairs with attendance on par with the first services I ever attended there. A couple of my friends there remarked to me last year they weren’t sure of Nanette’s ability to be a full-time Minister to two congregations.

That turned out to be a good guess, because Nanette is stepping down, and Grace Commons is losing its talisman. As the Minister of Grace Commons, Nanette installed a core ethos of hospitality and welcomed everyone, regardless of their background, and was beloved for her easy, outgoing, and personable style of teaching. She oversaw Grace Commons as it turned from three people in a coffeehouse to a formalized establishment with a personality of its own. Without her, Grace Commons is taking a congregation-run course, and I can’t say I know what’s in store for it. But I think I can speak for all of the old regulars from Grace Commons when I say: Nanette, we love you.

Worst Movies I Saw for the First Time this Year

I’ve always wanted to write up one of these best/worst movies lists. Unfortunately, I don’t frequently see enough movies in the year they came out in order to pull it off. Then last year, I read a blog post written by a friend who found a novel way around that: He presented his readers with a list of the best movies he had seen for the first time that year. I thought it was a great idea and immediately knew I had to rip him off.

That, of course, gave me a whole new problem: I couldn’t look like I was ripping him off. That and I, you know, didn’t watch quite as many legitimately good movies. So I decided to go the opposite route, because let’s face it: While all of us are willing to acknowledge the greatness of an immortal classic like Citizen Kane or The Godfather, there will be days when the heft of it will get to be a bit much, and you’ll just want to shut your brain down and throw something mindless into the DVD player. That’s why people make bad movies – they’re there for comfort and immediate enjoyment, not emotional gut-wrenching that inspires suicide notes.

However, there’s a difference between bad and just plain stupid, which I why I’ve chosen to compile a list of stupid-bad movies which would should never, ever watch under any circumstances. And one more thing: I just moved across the country and I still haven’t really settled, which is why you’re reading a part-list instead of a full one.

Atlas Shrugged Part I
You know a movie is bad when the DVD case feels the need to outright lie to you. The case refers to Ayn Rand’s original novel as a book about courage and self-sacrifice. Well, if you’re even remotely familiar with Rand’s stylings, you know the way she thinks goes as follows: You see a little kid eating a candy bar on the sidewalk. You decide that it’s in your own rational self-interest to have that candy bar. So you walk over to the kid, yank it away, and then push him into the path of a speeding car. Rand’s idea’s of courage and self-sacrifice are that you were courageous and self-sacrificial by merit of the fact that you didn’t beat the kid half to death between taking the candy and pushing him. Although that would have been okay too. You’re strong, he’s weak, it’s all gravy.

Now, I don’t denounce Rand’s work completely. I’m familiar with some of it and happen to agree with a few of her ideas: A strong market, small government, competition being good for production, and the idea that there is a vein of selfishness – which we don’t dare ever acknowledge – flowing through even the most altruistic of actions. Atlas Shrugged, however, is porn for libertarian righties. Stephen Colbert was right: This is a movie in which the good guys would be the bad guys anywhere else. It’s a fantasy, and a paranoid one at that. Every character is an over-the-top stereotype, and you’re still supposed to consider the robber barons the flawless, strong good guys.

Atlas Shrugged has no grounding in real science, real government workings, or real economics. It’s trying to get the populace to rally around an idea and a group of characters who despise them so much that they run off to a fantasy island. There is a severe disconnect between Rand’s philosophy and reality because Rand doesn’t care about the people on the production end of it and insists the world would stop when all the rich people go up even further into their rich people penthouses, and they could live just fine without the labor that keeps them there. Yeah, let’s see how that works. Atlas Shrugged takes weird leaps in dialogue – the good guys contradict themselves numerous times while discussing their philosophies – and ideas and has the production qualities of a porn movie. It’s lit similarly, scored similarly, and acted similarly. On the upside, since I’ve never read the book, I now know how bad it is and know that I’m not interested in ever reading it.

Clash of the Titans
I recently found a copy of the Sam Worthington Action Movie Checklist they used to make Clash of the Titans at a garage sale. I don’t know how it got there, and I don’t care. Stoic hero who takes himself far too seriously? Check! Does he try to evade his call? Check! Deny his identity? Check! Are we remaking an old movie? Check! I’m not going to sit here and try to pretend that the movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger are any brainier than Worthington’s, but what made Ah-nuld so much fun was that he knew what he was getting into. He wanted to make entertaining movies – as opposed to statements – and just happened to stab, shoot, and explode his way into a bunch of cult classics, a few legitimate classics, and a larger-than-life screen image which people spent years trying to copy. Schwarzenegger knew a lot of his movies were full of shit. We knew a lot of his movies were full of shit. The important difference between Schwarzenegger and Worthington is that Schwarzenegger KNEW we knew his movies were full of shit, and he played to expectations accordingly.

Yeah, the new Clash of the Titans not only employs every cliche that made action movies insufferable, it plays them straight. What you see in this sucker is what you get, and there isn’t anything about it that tries to elevate itself above and beyond the bog standard to make Clash of the Titans stand out. There’s no great overarching theme, but that doesn’t stop director Louis Leterrier from going about his job as if there’s some sort of hammy diatribe about religion in the script. The script disagrees with him, and the whole movie ends up being boring and muddled.

That sucks a whole lot too, because with the surge in superhero movies, it would have been a great time to introduce cinephiles to ancient legends like Perseus, Hercules, and the Argonauts. Those guys were the original superheroes. They stole treasures like fire and the Golden Fleece; killed unforgettable monsters like the minotaur, the hydra, Medusa, and the sirens; and interacted with interesting characters like Atlas, Hades, and Poseidon. Someone should start trying to contract Marvel to write graphic novels or movies about them. Until someone grows enough of a brain to try that, though, you’re much better off playing through the God of War video game series again. It’s pretty much the same thing as Clash of the Titans, only fun.

Good Luck Chuck
People who have seen Good Luck Chuck have no doubt made the statement of it being a cinematic sin at some point. That’s not true, though. The terrible truth is that Good Luck Chuck is itself not the sin, but rather the punishment for an even bigger sin humanity committed: For a hot minute there, we made Dane Cook a marquee movie star. I’m sure more Biblical types of folks will say the reason their god didn’t flood the entire planet again was because he promised not to, but I figure God huddled up with Hell’s Ironic Punishment Division and they decided giving people exactly what they asked for would be a much harsher punishment with longer-lasting effects.

In Good Luck Chuck, Dane Cook plays Chuck, a man who is eminently punchable and who is also a good luck charm for women looking for The One. They flag him down, have sex with him, and bam! The next guy they meet is their Prince Charming. If you can’t spot something egregious about women in that plotline, then congratulations on your success, Mr. Studio Executive. Anyhow, Chuck is the good guy, and the amazing thing is that his best friend Stu somehow manages to be even more punchable than Chuck. As all men are wont to do, Chuck sees Jessica Alba and falls in love with her instantly. They hit it off, but he can’t sleep with her. Hilarity ensues, as it tends to do. Good Luck Chuck is the only movie I’ve ever seen which opens with a joke about a junior high schooler trying to rape another junior high schooler. From there, Stu shouts a lot and acts chauvinistic and you want to kill him. Chuck has an 80’s montage of himself having sex with lots of women and you want to neuter him. The movie hits pretty much all the lowbrow humor stereotypes it can think of and you don’t laugh once.

The shame of it is that Good Luck Chuck can probably be seen as the movie that killed Jessica Alba’s career. Alba was never a great actress, but in Good Luck Chuck, she delivers a performance which is legitimately sweet, charming, and endearing. If you remember the TV ads for this movie, you may remember that Alba’s character is shown being a major klutz, but that aspect of her character is downplayed. Although her part isn’t written well, Alba brings her to a surprising life and is able to redeem a lot of the bullshit the script forces her through. At the points when she can’t, the blame lies more on the screenplay than on Alba. It’s too bad for her that this movie and her widely criticized line of natural products will now have to hold her over until her inevitable landing in the Portland edition of the CSI/NCIS franchise circle.

The Lone Ranger
Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Frank Grimes was hired to work at the Nuclear Plant and ended up electrocuting himself because he was the only sane man surrounded by an idiocracy? Picture that in reverse. You know, the funny man getting caught up in a planet full of serious, straight shooters. That’s The Lone Ranger. Another great reference point would be the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which share star Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski, and a pair of screenwriters, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (both of whom, by the way, also wrote Aladdin, the original Shrek, and The Mask of Zorro). Pirates involved another straight man in a comic world concept – every character in those movies had some sort of comedic slant, including Elizabeth Swann. (“You like pain?” BAM! “Try wearing a corset!”) The straight man in Pirates, Will Turner, eventually figured out that his landlubbing ways washed away with the tide.

John Reid – The Lone Ranger – never really figures that out, and boy does the script ever do everything it can to ram that into your head. Although it uses a framing device in an effort to create a mythos, the titular Ranger gets used more like the movie’s comic prop. We get left with a bloated series of scenes in which The Lone Ranger is placed in a wacky situation where his ideals and behavior clash with those of everyone else around him, thus setting up his inevitable fall and humiliation. When the movie finally gets tired of giving us the same old, same old and realizes that it has a $250 million budget, it tries to make up for lost time by presenting a train sequence. Depp seems to finally be tiring of the crazy person schtick he developed after the first Pirates movie made him a superstar, which means the guy who became the best part of Verbinski’s Pirates trilogy is now acting on autopilot. There’s only so often the audience can stand to watch the same thing over and over again, and that’s ultimately what The Lone Ranger keeps giving us. To worsen the effect, Verbinski seems obsessed with kids. Seems like there’s a kid in this movie being used as a prop in every other scene, and there’s a very special hell reserved for directors who rely on using kids to create a sense of drama or danger.

Fortunately, if you’re able to wait everything out, the climactic train sequence is a spectacular feat of stuntwork which makes a clear callback to The General, the legendary silent movie by Buster Keaton. Also, Verbinski decided against creating a photoshop-looking computerized bad guy who was obsessed with mechanical spiders, which means that for everything wrong with it, it’s still not nearly as bad as the Will Smith/Kevin Kline version of Wild Wild West.

It shouldn’t be some great cause of confusion as to just why Adam Sandler chose to create his newest movie around 70’s and 80’s video games: Those old games and Adam Sandler are both very simplistic. And Sandler doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo that his man-child shenanigans are dead now. They’re played out, and the more Sandler appears, the more you just want to punch him in the face until his head blows up into a bunch of those small pixel cubes that appear in Pixels whenever a bad guy blows up.

That description sound like fun? Well, in Pixels, he teams up with one of the great banes of the cinephile’s existence: The video game movie! Granted, Pixels isn’t based on any video game in particular, but it involves a plot about aliens trying to wipe out the Earth in the guise of popular old video game characters. So yes, that makes it a video game movie. Hey, Wreck-It Ralph and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World were both video game movies, even though they weren’t based on any video games, so yes, that’s possible.

A thoughtful and intelligent screenplay could have made Pixels work. Unfortunately, Pixels relies on those old jokes and stereotypes about gamers which make it a pain in the ass to be a gamer. The script has no concept of in-universe rules, so it looks like it was compiled in bits and pieces by people who were trying to force plot twists and unfunny jokes into it. All your favorites are here: The guy who has no clue how to socialize; the girls who don’t know anything about video games; the men are all immature; and the idea that video games are some pointless hobby that have no merit. When the inevitable virgin joke is finally made, you can almost hear the movie breathe a sigh of relief.

Robocop (2014)
Oh, the thrilling action of a bunch of One Percent suits arguing philosophy in boardrooms! The unique thing about this remake of Robocop is that it lacks any soul, despite catering to the expectations and whims of today’s public. While it does confront a handful of issues today’s audiences will find relevant, it doesn’t have the subtlety of Paul Verhoeven’s original, and what comes out is one very confused action movie.

There are action sequences, yes. Most of them are muted in some way. Robocop seems to abhor the idea of going full throttle to hit the crazy, ultraviolent heights of Verhoeven’s classic, and with that being the prevailing ethos, it seems almost to be at war with itself at times; like it wants to be the sort of philosophical rumination that Waking Life was, except good and with guns. My comment about arguing in boardrooms up there comprises a lot of the movie – they argue a lot about the morality of how effective a crimefighting robot can be if it doesn’t have the humanity required to pull back and take context into account.

As a semi-intellectual, that’s something I can appreciate. But not in this case. Robocop can’t figure out just what it is, and it doesn’t even have enough honesty with itself to present a true bad guy. The true bad guy in the movie is an ass-pull which came about because the writers remembered that Verhoeven’s movie was an action movie, and if anyone wanted to see a remake, they would probably be expecting action.


This blog is only a small amount of what I choose to write about my personal thoughts and ideas. The real fireworks occur in the more traditional longhand medium, which is a habit I had dabbled with in the past but only really picked up last year after a particularly egregious oversight by people I know. It proved to be a wonderful release until… Well, the reservoir wasn’t even close to dry, but it was starting to crumble under the dead weight of everything: My rapidly fading emotions, my draining will to keep writing, my general loneliness, boredom, and frustrations, and my suicidal contemplation being stronger than ever before. I randomly quit journaling, and when I finally decided to take it up again, it was more with the forced willingness of a blocked creator on a deadline than through any wont on my part. It reflected in my suddenly bare writing style.

It would take a hell of a spark to get me going again. I felt parts of it begin to light up as I visited Friendship Presbyterian Church to see… Well, friends in Chicago during my layover, and that night while watching the entire lunar eclipse from parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. And I felt it as my bus glided through the vast expanse of the Nashville city limits and along the front of the skyline in the early hours of the morning.

Then came my first night in Nashville, with Christi meeting me on the West End after I had spent a fairly invigorating day wandering around the city.

“Did you get to the waterfront?” she asked.

“No, I didn’t make it down that far,” I said.

And so with that, Christi decided she had to show off the waterfront, 10 PM time and the fact that I was still fatigued from three or four different Greyhound rides be damned. Christi told me about the pedestrian walkway that crossed the Cumberland River, but confessed that she didn’t know where it began. We ended up parked a brisk ten-minute walk from it, with Christi saying we would simplify our activities because it was so late: Walk to the bridge, see if we could find the entrance, and return to the car. But it had been a good long time since the last time we had seen each other, and so at the start of our walk, everything that happened over the past years tumbled out. Christi is a spectacular ranter, and before the car was parked, her mouth was flying at such a high level that it was discovered and renamed by the Chinese space program. That got me going, and as we shared our dark thoughts on taboo subjects with each other, our quick 20-minute walk to find the trail to the pedestrian bridge morphed into a 120-minute walk across the bridge and a lap around the football stadium. My feet were throbbing by the time we got back to the car, but that didn’t matter to me.

Something about that moment had lit me right back up. One of the many reasons that Christi and I are friends is because Christi is about the most unshockable person I’ve ever known. She’s willing to take interest in and run with ideas that even the most open-minded people won’t let themselves so much as even think, and that frees me up to speak and act without the burdens of any of those ridiculous masks we force ourselves into when we need to function around even small crowds. The very idea of normality is something which drives us both into convulsions, especially if we’ve had to go past our limits pretending to be that way.

That was just the beginning. One of odd aspects of this mental recharge was that a lot of it also happened while I did the typical Western New York NHL playoffs routine: Outside on the front porch, screen door shut, drinking all the beer within reach while prattling on about the hockey playoff game blaring audibly in the background. Except, this being Tennessee and no one watches hockey in Tennessee, we replaced the hockey game with whatever random offering of music happened to be laying around in the CD case. We picked the music pretty much in round robin fashion, and I didn’t pass up a chance to listen to August and Everything After for the first time since, well, possibly ever.

After a couple of days, I finally felt that familiar urge to write again. When I did, my journal entries looked like they had the creativity and congealed energy and focus of my original journal entries. Words started coming easier, and instead of writing down handfuls of near-non-sentences about the daily sequence, I started writing down the same thoughts and feelings that I believed needed to be dug up by the local archeologist 500 years after I’ve been dead. I’m starting to wonder if I should take the time and effort to try to trick the archeologist who digs me up at that point into thinking I was some sort of cloned dinosaur, or maybe one of the world’s great superdictators.

Of course, the practical downside of everything is that I haven’t been able to just sit down and machine-gun blog entries the way I want to. That’s just the sort of shit that can happen when your computer craps out on you. (And let there be no mistake about it – it’s goddamn junk these days. It’s an iMac, but it’s an iMac from 2008, and an Apple from 2008 is practically ash by this point.) Hell, I wasn’t able to blog at all in Nashville. So now I have to sort through all of my newly-collected memories and decide how to consolidate them, or decide which ones I think are odd enough to jump from my journal page to whatever computer screen I happen to be staring at. No matter what happens, though, one thing about my writing will always be the same: I’m still at my very best whenever I take the Hemingway approach to my work.

The Nashville Sound

The Nashville Sound

Johnny Cash became a superstar in Nashville. He’s technically considered a country singer, which means music aficionados are likely to file him under the “YEE-HAW!!!” compartments of their brains right along with John Wayne’s dead brand of American patriotism and Terry Bradshaw. Cash, though, had a powerful flair for lyrics. He spoke to the darkest corners of the soul; the areas we’re forced to deny the existence of whenever we put on our brave faces because social protocol demands we suck it up and move on. He made a career of expressing in music and lyric form the ways we’ve all felt at our loneliest and most helpless, and in doing so he turned into a transcendent singer whose work was felt by everyone, whether or not they hated country music.

Nashville itself, of course, has a long and storied history in music. Elvis Presley is such a popular figure there that his favorite sandwich can be bought at Johnny Cash’s museum. It’s even nicknamed The Music City! With a nick and a reputation like that, you would expect an explosive variety of music to be available on the local radio stations, with a load of country stations leading the charge. But when I turned on my small shortwave radio in my first morning in Nashville and started channel surfing, it was very surprising and a little disturbing to find station after station of those great dregs of music: Christian music. Constant clicking of that whacked-out, balls-to-the-wall, fire and brimstone variety of preaching. God is good; heaven will be awesome; you’re all going to hell; the end times are here and the atheists are all going to have the planet to themselves after we all get raptured.

No wonder everyone makes fun of country music. There are so many Christian radio stations in Nashville that some bigshot travel writer probably listened to all the Christian stations, mistook the music for country, and launched a satirical stereotype worthy of Mencken or Twain. Staying as a guest in the home of my good friend Christi, the first thing I asked her that morning – besides “How the hell does this coffee machine work?” – was about whether or not there were any radio stations in Nashville that weren’t screaming about the holy light and the greatness of Jay-zuz! in orgasmic overtones. She told me that she noticed that too, and that a lot of those Christian stations were going to either tread on eggshells or scare the fear of the Christian God into you.

Mindboggling is the word for this. To listen to radio in Nashville is to conclude that residents are either all crackers or religious fanatics and that no one in the city could possibly be a fan of jazz, blues, hip hop, or classic rock. The Law of Averages alone means the demographics of Nashville probably include people who like all those things. And don’t misread me here – they’ll definitely include people who love Christian music and country music too, but probably not 12 goddamned stations of it.

It’s weird to think there are 12 different demographics of people who would listen to Christian music at all. We like to toss things into broadly generalized categories and lament about how they’re all the same. This sentiment, however, doesn’t actually hold true. All those similar products are specifically made to appeal to that general audience in a different way. But, little obedient Christian as I once was, I really have never detected a difference in Christian-based mass media. All of the Christian music I’ve heard boils down to the same watered-down message: God loves you so much that he killed his own kid in order to undo a nefarious plan enacted by his arch-foe centuries in the past. They all emphasize the same Bible stories and the fact that this God character loves us and wants us to be happy without the use of beer. It’s a very straightforward message, always told in an equally straightforward manner. So how are 12 Christian music stations able to divvy up a fanbase in a city as large and diverse as Nashville and still be in business? Especially when they have to compete against all the real country music stations?

This is just… Odd. I had heard all the stories about what things were like in the South, along the Bible Belt, of course. Hell, this isn’t even my first time traveling through the South. I had traveled to St. Louis – and I am, in fact, in St. Louis again, writing this post from the Illinois side – and been to the very tip of the South, New Orleans, on the Gulf Coast. But there are people who could build a case against me ever visiting the South at all with a travel itinerary that looks like that – St. Louis is only arguably a Southern city, and New Orleans is an odd little hotbed of hedonism which is also the headquarters of New France and a dominantly Catholic city in Southern Baptist Jesusland. While Nashville fits all possible descriptions of a large city, it also fits all possible descriptions of being a Southern city. Right down to a glorification of Nathan Bedford Forest, the Confederate General who also just happened to be the founder of the Ku Klux Klan once the Civil War was over. And yes, that oh-so-slight little blotch on Forest’s resume is under gloss so thick that it gets buried altogether.

So there I was, having rejected Christianity in nearly as complete a way as can be done, being told by weird voices in my radio that I can go to hell. And there I also was, thinking the same thing about that as I’ve now been thinking for the last ten years. I don’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity of this whole situation or cry about being in it. I don’t know if I should be bemused or disturbed. I can, however, say this: Nashville was otherwise such a fun place to be that it wasn’t able to get into my head.


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