Speaking In Tongues . . .

A hard fast doctrine of the most holy Apostolic Pentecostal Church states quite simply that in order to be saved you must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Speaking in tongues is the evidence that proves you have received the Holy Ghost. 

In all reality, although everyone else was doing it, I just couldn’t wrap my head around speaking in tongues. The question, “Why do I need a strange language that I can’t even understand in the first place?”  When I want to talk to God I need to know what I’m saying . . . right? I mean what if I slipped up and called God an asshole or something? Holy shit! 

I heard many people try to reason that one out, heard the word “faith” a lot, heard more dodging and spinning than during a Biden press conference, but nothing equated . . . ever. 

Did I ever speak in tongues? Sure, but only when I faked it because someone was listening and I wanted them to know how holy I was. 

There was one time though when I believe I spoke in tongues . . . so. I’m gonna give a true and honest witness to that occasion in the following story. 

Anybody who has ever fished commercially in Alaskan waters knows what having the hell scared out of you is all about. I certainly do, as it seems we spent more time trying to keep our old tug afloat than we did any actual fishing. 

                                                    ***

It was a typical Fall morning in Whittier. The sun was out, but it was cold and windy. Bear Lewis and I decided to make a run out to Poe Bay and check the pots we had lain a few days earlier. 

Now, in all honesty, I don’t know why my friend George ever hired Bear to captain his boat in the first place. He was too dumb to understand a chart and he got disoriented as soon as he lost sight of Whittier. 

I was George’s man on the scene so to speak and it was my job to be a ‘go between’ between him and Bear while he was in Anchorage working as president of the electricians union. The only problem was that Bear, being a mean dude, wasn’t about to listen to me concerning anything at all when it came to running the boat. In essence, I was just along for the ride.

This was fine to me because I knew absolutely nothing about crabbing anyways. I’d been a crew member during the salmon season on other boats before, but this was my first time out in the coldness of crab season. 

I knew Bear was bullshitting when it came to being a boat captain, but I didn’t care as I was between building projects and hungry for some adventure. (which Bear gave me in spades)

George’s boat was one of the old wooden types. 46’ in length and top heavy from a past remodel job by an obvious landlubber. He won the ‘Squeeky’ in a poker game and we decided to take her fishing. 

She was heavy and very hard to control in rough seas, and in Alaska, even when smooth, you always knew ‘rough’ was just around the corner. To our credit, so far we had managed to stay afloat while keeping accidents to a minimum . . . (that meant just one a week instead of one every day.) 

We loaded up at the transient dock in Whittier and took off into the Passage heading East. The following sea pushed us easily along and we soon arrived at our fishing spot. All was well with the world as we proceeded to set our pots in perfect weather. Come evening, we found a quiet cove in Poe bay and anchored down for the night. In the morning we planned to saddle up and head back to Whittier. 

After coffee and hard-boiled eggs, we headed out of the cove into a calm and beautiful morning. As we cruised north to the point where Poe bay emptied into the open waters of Prince William Sound, I saw white caps in the distance. That meant waves, and one thing Squeaky did not like was waves. Regardless, Bear thought we could make it back ok,  so after another 1/2 hour or so we exited the peaceful quiet of the bay and committed ourselves to the rough water of the Sound . . . and the fun began.

The water was a sparkling green. The waves were at least ten feet high and absolutely stunning. But when marching at you like a never-ending army in a full-frontal attack while driving an ‘out of balanced’ tug like Squeaky straight into them, they can be intimidating as hell.

Bear must have thought so also, I could tell by the way he was white-knuckling the steering wheel. Yelling for me to get him his survival suit didn’t give me much confidence either. HIS survival suit,  I didn’t have one. All I had was the buoy hanging by the door to the wheelhouse. 

“NO! AND IT WOULD HELP IF YOU’D SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!” I hollered back at him. 

With that Bear got even more scared and gunned the engine even more. (for some reason he thought head butting into a strong wave was a GOOD thing to do) I thought he was just in a hurry to get back to Whittier where he’d be safe. 

I was hanging on to the stern locker for dear life while the boat, with each smash of a wave, was trying to decide whether to pitchpole or not. So far we hadn’t quite made the grade and broken the balance point, but I was certain that with the force of the waves against Bear’s speed we were getting very close. If that happened I was a dead duck. I knew as soon as I hit the water my muscles would begin to freeze up. Alaska is not kind to dumbasses who think they can swim to safety. 

It was about this time that I started to laugh . . . and to scream into the wind . . . and to speak in tongues. 

I think I was so excited and so scared that I’d forgotten how to talk. I waited until the boat settled in the trough and ran into the wheelhouse to grab the phone and call “mayday” for anybody in the area who could rescue us as I was certain we were going down. 

As I picked up the phone a wave crashed into the wheelhouse, broke through the windows, and filled the Helly Hanson rain gear I was wearing. It was freezing cold,  but for some reason unbeknownst to me, quite calming. The phone got drowned, so I put it back on its hook and started to stuff sleeping bags, Bears survival suit, towels, and anything else I could find into the gaping hole where the window used to be.

Not only did the wave drown me and my phone, but it also dropped into the engine compartment and killed the engine. That engine was the only thing on the whole boat worth a damn. I took the wheel while Bear jumped into the hold to get it going again. (he was actually a good mechanic) 

Giving me the wheel was something he would never do before, but by now the big guy was more puppy dog than bear. The first thing that I did was slow down. That helped. Then I began to quarter the waves instead of hitting them dead on at full speed ahead. That worked. Old “Squeaky” settled down and got us back to Whittier in one piece. 

The last I saw of Bear Lewis he was heading to the harbor bar. (probably to tell all who would listen, to his bullshit version of the battle between him and the sea.) I headed back to Anchorage forever. No more fishing. No more Bear. No more Whittier. 

Anyways, I guess I can now say I actually spoke in tongues. But in all reality I believe tongue talking is not much different than any of the other proofs we attempt in order to say we visually talk to God.     

A Hippies Thanksgiving

This morning I got to thinking about Thanksgiving and the best one I ever experienced, when it was and who I was with . . .  that sort of thing. Following is the true story of the –best Thanksgiving I personally ever had. It takes place back in the day when the music never stopped, till the day it died . . . Bye, bye, Miss American Pie . . . 

It was 1969. I was living in a cheap walk-up in Portland, Oregon,  just one more runaway looking for a spark of reality, and thinking I could find it by denouncing all that my parent’s generation stood for. I had just left the military and a short, but bad marriage. I was in hiding from all responsibilities and kidding myself that I could actually do such a thing. 

It was Thanksgiving morning, alone and depressed I went for a walk in the silent city. As I walked through the old neighborhood I felt more alone still, the usual hustle was not there, and even the drug dealers seemed to have taken the day off. I was walking, but going nowhere. . . . just walking.

There was a music store a few blocks down Burnside and I was heading in that direction, probably to stare into the window at the old Martin guitar I would have given my last dollar for, had I actually had one. As I walked along the empty street a Volkswagen van passed me by. It was full of freaks just like me. They pulled up in front of the music store and the guy behind the wheel, who must have been the owner, went in and came right back out. He jumped in the van, came back in my direction, and stopped in front of me.

The friendly faced girl sitting on the passenger side rolled down her window and asked,  “Hey man where you going?” 

“Nowhere, just bummin around.”

“We’re having a party! Wanna come?”

“Sure,” I said perking up a bit.

The van door slid open. Inside, it was packed full of hippies, all in an upbeat mood. 

“Hop in! We’re having thanksgiving for a bunch of people and you’re invited!” She turned in her seat and faced me. How lovely she was, and how excited. 

“Wow man, yeah man, that would be so cool,” I answered. . . The day that began as a huge bummer suddenly became a life-giving adventure because that little lady thought it would be cool to pick me up and take me to her party.   

A couple minutes later we pull up to one of the old Victorian homes that dot the SW Portland neighborhood and park. The van unloads, we walk up the concrete steps together and enter the magical atmosphere of a house turned hippie haven. 

There are couches, stuffed chairs, funky second hand furnishings, door beads, and brightly dressed people everywhere. Music playing. People, laid back and relaxed, laughing effortlessly. ‘no canned laughter here’  What a lovely place to be. There are no introductions, no embarrassing ‘trying to say the right things,’ I merely walk into the large living room, find an empty place to sit on an old couch, and sit down. The guy already sitting there says to me, “ Hey bro, how you doing?” 

“Wow man, I’m doin just great . . . ”

Using half sentences, chopped up wording, and a lingo from Mars, off we go on a discussion encompassing so many variables that I can’t describe . . . ‘the kind of stuff people say when they are stoned and flaunting the norm, I suppose.’

Anyways, we’re talking away when a chick who just arrived walks over and stands in front of the couch I’m sitting on and begins to comb her long, blond hair by pulling it over her face. As I glance up, all I see is one very entrancing blue eye staring back at me. 

Wow! . . . Instant attraction! 

Still combing her hair, she shakes off the old Salvation Army fur coat she’s wearing and sits down beside me to finish combing her hair. We talk. We laugh. We smoke a joint together. We share our intimate details . . . all before dinner. 

When the girls call from the dining room we all, (about 25 I suppose), file in and take a seat before the huge rigged up concoction of tables loaded with food and interspersed with bottles of wine. Nobody prays or does any of the traditional stuff. We just dig in and enjoy this festive occasion as if it was the best meal we will ever have . . . and to many, including myself, it was. 

After the feast was over and we are all laying around like wolves who had just devoured a moose, the joints come out and pass around one more time. The blond ends up alongside me on a couch where we kiss and snuggle and fall asleep in each other’s arms. 

I don’t remember how or when I got back to my pad, but I do remember the blond and the two-month or so love fest we had following that thanksgiving party. But, like all things in those days, it was fast, furious, and burned out just as fast when she went to Hawaii and disappeared from my life forever. She was my angel, I loved her dearly and I will never forget . . . whats-her-name.

My Old Friends . . .

It seems I do more of it in the winter, but regardless, as I get older I spend a lot of time daydreaming. I usually wake up at about 5 am, make coffee,\ and, being retired and having no place to go, sit in my chair in the dark drinking my coffee and dreaming about the past. A rather pleasant time, I might add.

Now I have been to a lot of places and done a lot of things, but the things and places have become mere backdrops, places to hold the faces and memories of the many people I have known and the friends I have made over the last 80 years that I have lived on this planet.

As I begin to think of a place and time the faces are soon to follow. These faces pop into my mind like a worn out jack-in-the-box. Crank the handle and up pops Joey Sirgo or Gunner Thompson, or Tommy One Nut, Pissball Pete, or just plain Joe . . . . . (It’s amazing how many of these guys have slang names and how often that’s the only one I can remember.)

Then the fun begins as I sit and reminisce with these guys over all the exciting times we had together . . . and a few of the sad ones. Seems the good and the funny always float to the top first though. I have to dig a bit to get to the bad, so as I hate shoveling I mostly leave that part alone.

To all the girls I’ve loved before. I remember your eyes, the lift of your breasts, and the swing of your hips, but my Band of Brothers meant far more to me than trying to figure you out ever did. You ladies have a special room in my heart, but not this one. This room is filled with bar girls, one-night stands, and short time hookers.

The “old boys club” door is locked to the finer female. You wouldn’t like it in here anyways cause the room stinks of old cigar smoke, cordite, and bull shit, and the floor is littered with trampled peanut shells, dried blo and dog hair. A place only one of my old friends could love.

I always figured when I got old I would be sitting in the park with the rest of the old goats like they did when I was a kid. Maybe the old project crowd still does that, I don’t know because I lost contact with them at 15 when I had to move.

Today I live a life of seclusion. I spend my days reading, goofing on my computer, or driving my wife crazy, but rarely if ever do I spend time with friends, cause although spread over half the world, they are not here.

Once I was in a Portland City jail cell with the walls covered in graffiti. I found an empty spot and wrote my own little tale of woe, “I’ve been alone since birth, I’ll remain alone till death, then I’ll have a friend”. Kind of a downer, but how else would you feel being stuck in a two man cell with a guy coming down off heroin?

I do hope that quickly thought verse will prove itself to be true though cause I’m getting closer to D day each time I go to sleep at night and it would be really cool to wake up on the other side and see a large table of my friends gathered around it to greet me. (and my many favorite dogs lying under it)

Jesus and God would have to wait for a while then because the first thing I want to do is drink some good Old Crow and hang out with the guys again for a season . . . or two.

My Moment Of Truth . . .

The housing project where I was born and raised sat on the tough side of town. If my dog died, if the big kid next door punched me in the nose, if practically anything happened to me I never cried and if I did I made damn sure I was alone because cry babies in the projects were guaranteed to be at the bottom of the pecking order.

I don’t know how it worked for others who have had theirs, but my ‘awareness’ breakthrough came during the winter of 67 after a couple of us guys decided while sitting in the local bar to drive down to the country and hunt up some rabbits the same as we’d done every year since high school.

Early that following morning it was cold as all hell and there was snow on the ground, but we packed up Tom’s old Ford with guns and a couple of six packs and went off hunting anyway.  I was wearing boots, a warm jacket, and some sort of ball cap, but none of that orange shit and hunting licenses for us by damn. We were outlaws.

Once there Tom parked off the road, I grabbed my four ten shotgun out of the trunk, showed the guys where I was heading so they didn’t shoot me, and wandered off.

I worked my way down one small hill, walked the ravine for a while, and started up a larger hill on the other side. At the top, I entered a cluster of naked trees and stopped. There were a few tracks in the snow, but everything was holed up and not moving much in the cold. I spotted a large brush pile, the kind bunnies like to hang out in, snuck up and kicked at it. There was a faint rustle and out popped a rabbit running like a bat out of hell across the small clearing.

Aim . . . squeeze . . . BLAM! . . . got him! YES!

I ran up to the wounded rabbit who was lying on his side in a patch of reddening snow. Watched him kicking in circles. Watched him slow down. Watched him give a few short shudders and stop. Watched as the brightness faded from his eyes.

What the shit?! Huge crocodile tears streamed down my face. Sniff, Sniff . . . . I’m crying!

What are the guys going to say if they find me standing here crying like a baby over a dumb ass rabbit!

I’m a veteran for Christ’s sake. A year or so ago I had been stomping through Asia in the Airborne Infantry. I am a lean, mean, crazy-ass killing machine! What’s up with these fucking tears?

I worked hard at it and finally quenched the sobbing and regained my composure. I cleaned the rabbit before returning to the car. The other guys were already there pissing and moaning about how it was too cold to hunt.

“You guys are a bunch of pussies,” I chided in my best macho. “Look at this!” I pulled the rabbit out of my pouch. I may have bragged on the way home, but these forty-some years later I never went hunting again. The thrill of killing died alongside the rabbit that day. Good riddance.

Although it took many years to fully blossom, that cold winter day had been the beginning, the day when my heart thawed and I realized a connection to the Earth far greater than I imagined there was or ever could be. Since then I have changed my viewpoint about many things and completely about the animals. In the school of life, I had graduated from conquerer to caretaker.

Today I live in the middle of a couple thousand acres of Eastern forest and spend a lot of time in the woods observing and trying to communicate with the many animals on my property. We feed the birds, leave brush piles for the small critters, and don’t mess with the deer and turkeys. If you saw me talking to a squirrel you might believe I am just a crazy old man with a white beard who’s gone off the edge, but in my world, I am having a great time walking the path I’ve created for myself. When I am angry or stressed out or even sick I go to the woods and I talk to my friends. Many times I come home healed.

I understand reality though, the day I stumbled onto a baby rattlesnake I didn’t try to pet it, but neither did I hack it to pieces. I merely left it alone. The snake is as important to the ecosystem as I am, probably more so. Why kill it?

Being at one with the animals is quite easy for me, but that is only one step in this ‘awareness’ evolution. I admit to having a much harder time connecting with my own species . . . people aren’t so easy to understand.

Beauty In The Night . . .

1972

It was late Friday evening. I’d just walked in the door after a hard afternoon shift at Hoover’s. My thoughts were only on the pizza I was carrying, a couple cold beers, and the warm bed I would soon be sharing with Patti, my wife.

I don’t remember exactly how or where she got the idea, but as soon as I sat down on the couch my wife came out of the kitchen carrying a shopping bag. She sat down beside me, kissed me on the cheek, and pulled a game board out of the bag. “Want to have some fun?” she teased.

” What’s that?”

” A Ouija board.”

“Ouija board?”

“Yes, you sit across from each other and ask it questions. You hold one side of this thing, (she held a small rectangular pointer with three legs in her hand) and I hold the other,” she explained. “Then you ask it a question and it will move around the board spelling out an answer from the spirit world.”

“Ok, let’s eat first, I’m starved. Then we can play a game if you want, OK?”

“Sure, go get the beer.” I got up and headed for the fridge with visions of ‘lost pleasure because of playing a silly game’ dancing in my head. . . . ‘Oh well, maybe later,’ I thought. I returned with a couple beers and handed Patti one.

We gabbed a bit and finished off a few more beers before she cleaned up while I went to the kitchen and returned with one table chair in each hand. She positioned them in the center of the room so they’d be facing one another. Motioning for me to sit in one, she sat down across from me, opened the Ouija board across our laps, and placed her fingertips lightly on the sliding device instructing me to do the same.

“Ready?

“Sure.”

Patti went first. “How old am I?” she asked. Slowly the pointer moved to 2 then to 1. “That’s right! See, I told you this thing works.” she said excitedly. “Your turn, ask it a question.”

”O.K. Mister Ouija, how old am I?” Sliding…. Adding…24.”That’s right!” I exclaimed.

Patti looked at me and let out a ghostly, “Ooooooohhh.”

She took her turn.

My turn. “Mr. Ouija, What’s my mom’s name?” I asked. Slowly, as if having a mind of its own the pointer moved from letter to letter spelling out – L.I.L.L.I.A.N.

“Are you making it do that?” 

“No, swear to God, I just had my fingers on the thing like you’re supposed to, I never moved it, I was thinking you were.”

Patti took her turn.

My turn. “Mr. Ouija, Where’s my dad?” (Who had died a year earlier) H.E.R.E.

“Ohhh shit. You think we ought to be fooling with this thing?” 

Giving me her best ‘you’re a chicken shit’ look she said, “Sure, see if you can talk to your father.”

She skipped her turn.

We began talking solely to my father. We asked him many specific questions. We received many specific answers . . . and the night rolled on.

At first, we were communicating with just him, but soon strangers would butt into the conversation. It was as if there was a line of spirits on the other side waiting to talk to us.

Once Coleen arrived though, that was it. No other names would show up, even my dad disappeared. Every answer was coming from Colleen. She had taken control of the board.

The fun was by now over for Patti. She was getting scared and wanted to quit.

“Let me ask one more question then we’ll quit, OK?”

“OK,” she answered reluctantly.

“Colleen, can you come to me in a dream?”

Y. E. S.

“Will you come and talk to me tonight?”

Y.E.S.

“Alright, I’m finished,” I said looking up from the board. “I’m going to talk to Colleen in a dream. Come on let’s go to bed.”

Patti looked deeply into my eyes.

“What’s the matter? You jealous?” I asked her.

”No, I’m afraid,” she said quite seriously. “How do you know who you’re really talking to?”

”Aww shit, Pat, this is going to be a really cool trip, besides do you think anything will actually happen?” I said smiling. “Come on, let’s go to bed.”

                                                  * * * *

Patti’s deep breathing signaled she had finally fallen asleep.

I was lying there staring at the ceiling thinking maybe I goofed up cause I could have gotten laid instead when a quick, cool breeze blew through the window behind our bed causing the thin curtain to blow straight out and start waving in the dark room. It stopped as suddenly as it had started. Outside the window, the night was calm and still.

Then I saw a light flashing in the half-bath across the room. It looked like it does when a car’s headlights scan across your window. The only problem was we were on a dead-end street in the country. There were no cars around.

I must have then fallen asleep because the next thing I remember was standing in a large Grecian courtyard surrounding a beautiful white marble temple supported by large ivory columns. There were six columns spaced every ten yards or so aligned in a row, between the temple and me.

At the temple’s entrance stood a woman dressed in a flowing white gown that rippled in the cool breeze blowing off what I knew to be the Mediterranean Sea. As she stepped out of the shadows the sunlight reflecting off her long, blond hair created a halo effect about her head. Her radiant, expressionless face bore the exquisite beauty of a goddess. Even from that distance, I could clearly see her sensual, gray eyes staring directly at me.

Slowly she began walking towards me from behind the columns. Her image appeared, then disappeared, only to reappear again one column closer until there were no columns left.

She was now directly in front of me, smiling and seductive, coming closer still. Her eyes shone with the sexual intensity that comes upon a woman only in her most intimate moment. Her arms opened to embrace me.

I opened my arms to her in anticipation, but she was not stopping. She kept coming, as if her goal was to walk into me, to become a part of me. Just one more step. I was filled with excitement . . . awaiting this new experience.

Suddenly I was awakened by my frantic wife.

“Patti, what the hell are you doing?” I asked. “I was right in the middle of a fantastic dream, and you woke me up. Dammit, Pat!”

She gave me a confused look. “Are you out of your fucking mind!” You were kicking and thrashing around and yelling, NO! NO! NO! . . . so much you woke me up!”

I sank quietly backward into my pillow and tried to fathom what had just taken place. Lying there I began to realize that something very strange had just happened. Something cold and sinister had come within a breath of capturing my soul.

I was afraid.

The following Sunday found me for the first time in my adult life walking down a church aisle towards the alter. I had never been big on religion, but logic told me that if darkness was real perhaps the Light was also. I needed to find out.

                                                            * * *

And the devil came not with a fork & tail, ugly and fire bright,

But as light and love, he appeared to me, in the guise of beauty in the night.

Give Jimmy A Gun You Better Run! . . .

The assassin knew the risks involved in this mission were great, perhaps even suicidal, but he didn’t care. With quiet trepidation, he took one last mental check, stepped from his hiding place, and disappeared into the dark of the moonless night.

A strong sense of danger nearly overpowered his resolve as he crept around the side of the house, but hard-won mental conditioning kept him moving forward. Upon reaching the designated kill zone he stopped, listened for movement, took a quick look around, and disappeared between a large tangle of bushes growing beneath the kitchen window.

Adrenaline pumped wildly through the assassin’s veins as he spotted the shirtless target standing before a sink, washing dishes. A radio blared from the living room. With music playing and the man’s back to the screenless window, the assassin, knowing this was going to be an easy hit, prepared for immediate action.

Silently he laid his rifle across the sill and took aim. One shot, center mass between the shoulder blades, one kill. Breath in . . . slowly . . . hold . . . relax . . . squeeze the trigger . . . BANG! . . .

A frightened, animal-like, yelp ripped through the quiet evening . . . followed by a crescendo of violent cursing as the target dropped the dish he was drying and tried to reach the pain emanating from the center of his back.

Mission accomplished!

The assassin prepared to escape and evade, but now realized he had fallen into the trap every rookie fears and many live to regret . . . not giving enough thought to the small detail of getting away. He had gone even one step further by neglecting to consider his escape at all. The opportunity to kill had overpowered his reasoning so completely he had thrown all caution to the wind, and was about to pay a high cost for his foolishness.

The stricken enemy, who had not even fallen down, spun around and faced his startled son staring back from the other side of the window, “JIMMY!” he shouted. “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU . . . . !“

Although the assassin had seen his enemy angry many times before, he had never seen him like this. Filled with the dread of impending doom, he dropped his rifle in the bushes and ran head on into the night. Rounding the corner of the house, he dove into the bushes surrounding his previous hideout, hoping the enemy would think he had continued running.

Hearing no one chasing him, the killer quietly peered back around the corner in time to watch his father burst through the screen door, dash across the stoop and drop to the yard where he found the BB gun lying beneath the bush. The BB gun that he, himself, had just days before purchased as a gift for his son.

The assassin watched in horror as the target swiftly picked up his new rifle and swung it against a tree hard enough to bend it in half and ruin any hopes he would ever have of using it again. He was stunned. Tears streamed down his cheeks. A sob broke free from his heaving chest as he watched the beloved rifle break into two pieces and be thrown to the ground by the enraged enemy.

A moment of silence ensued. . . then the dreadful roar of the enemy’s voice bellowed full throttle into the night, “JIMMY! YOU GET YOUR ASS BACK HERE! NOW!!”

Knowing full well his hope of escape was nil, the assassin gave himself up to fate and meekly surrendered. Though certain he would be given over to the torturer and his water board, he realized all was not lost. Head down in faked shame, he shuffled slowly back to the scene of his crime. A small smile went unnoticed as it broke the thin line of his lips.