Drinking: Again with the tea
I’m taking to the sky in a few days. Which you already know if you read all that nonsense about my inability to pack a suitcase. Boy and I are heading south this time. To Alabama.
I’ve never spent much time in the south, although I was born in Virginia. But my parents moved me west and north before my third birthday, so I never had a chance to develop anything other than a mild Midwest twang. (Although after 6 years on the west coast, I now say “Dude!” far more often than is really necessary.)
I went to the Carolinas, once. I had a lapse in judgement while I was in college and dated a tall blonde boy with thin lips who went to a university in the southern-most Carolina. I flew down to visit him on my spring break. It was a bad idea all around, but that’s not Carolina’s fault.
Then there was the summer I lived in Indianapolis — I spent three months writing for The Indianapolis News/Star as part of the Pulliam Journalism Fellowship. And three months was more than enough time for me to decide there’s really nothing in Indiana that I want to go back for. Okay, except for my cousin Pam, who lives in Indiana. But that’s it!
So that’s the extent of my acquaintance with the southern states. (And I know Indiana doesn’t really count.)
But all that’s about to change. Boy and I are traveling to Decatur, Alabama, where I’ll spend the weekend doing something I haven’t done in six years. Going to church.
I know there’s no need to fly across nine states to get some pew time in, but this is a special sort of occasion. About six months ago, I received a request from the pastor of a Methodist church in Decatur. He had seen a video of a talk/essay/performance/whatever that I did back in 1998, and wanted me to come and speak at his church. I turned him down flat.
See, this video, “This Is Who I Am”, has been floating around the church world for quite a few years now and so I get speaking requests from church people from time to time. I always turn them down, for several reasons. The biggest of which is that “This Is Who I Am” is not who I am anymore. And most of the people who want me to come and speak at their church/conference/whatever don’t get that. They don’t read through my web site, they don’t pay attention to any of the poetry or cinepoems, and so they just have this idea of who I might be and what I might say from a 7-minute essay I wrote 9 years ago. And even back then, I wasn’t what you would call a Jesus-freak. But many of these speaking requests come from people who don’t do their homework. They see one little thing and just assume that of course I’ll be all rah-rah with pom-poms on the Christian float. They would be wrong.
But this guy from Alabama was different. He watched the cinepoems. He read all my web posts. He even bought a poetry book. And he still wanted me to come to Decatur.
Over the course of a few months and many emails, I became impressed with the sincerity of his request. But more than that, I felt like he had a pretty good idea of what I was all about, and he still kept inviting me to speak. He wasn’t deterred by the fact that I haven’t been to church in years or that I fully enjoy flinging the fuck-word around now and then or that I think Bush might be the devil or that I want gay people to be able to get married or even that I get really itchy around evangelicals.
In fact, he invited me to come and speak to his church about why I don’t go to church. I was completely flabbergasted. (And I don’t get to use that word very often!)
So I reconsidered. And then I said yes.
And then I spent the next four months wondering what in the world I was going to say. How was I going to justify all this attention? How was I going to make it worth these people’s while to fly me all the way from California? How was I going to offer them any wisdom, anything even the slightest bit meaningful or profound?
It all came together, finally, as it always does, and now I am sitting on 14 pages of words and 6 video excerpts. (The videos include a just-for-this-occasion cinepoem called “Sunday Morning Misfit” [that's what the stained glass picture up above is from], and 5 interviews with a few of my favorite friends — people who are Sunday Morning Misfits just like me.) There’s no measly 7-minute essay happening this time around — I’ve got a good hour’s worth of things to say, and you know what? I am really excited about it. Not nervous or overwhelmed or unsure. Completely the opposite. I have stories to share that need to be heard, and I’m ready to go, mouth full of words.
I’ve received lots of really kind and welcoming emails from the people in Decatur over the past few months, and I am very much looking forward to meeting all of them. It’s safe to say that nothing quite like this has ever happened to me before, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.
No matter what, it certainly will not be boring!
-Lo, who really doesn’t mind being a misfit most of the time.