Flaskaland
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
  Frank went to church in Montclair once


My Grandmother knew what "davining" was, as she had gone along with a friend to a synagogue somewhere back East a few decades prior.  She said she didn't understand the language.  She talked about this with Frank and imitated the singing and bowing for him, so he would better understand what was going on with Dylan.

And my mother would chime in what she understood: no afterlife.  here and now.  it's all on this earth.

Different than the Catholics (and how with all the Catholic child visions of hellfire, purgatory, and limbo, so you could never really know where you stood except with one foot in the fire at all times, and weird mysteries like purple bookmarks with a colorful stick-on decal of a saint that was incredibly important and secretive and you were never to misplace it ever, keep it in the missal marking a special prayer you had to say 600 times. to be found in that small palm sized book that had white ivory cover and a real metal cross imbedded into the cover.  And gold edged pages.  And the first page, a color sideview picture of Jesus praying with clasped hands and gazing upwards to the heavens). 

Different, but dripping in guilt like the Catholics, she would add.  (At which point Frank would leave the room to go to the bathroom and she would go on with this monologue, and then he would return).

And she would talk of her Catholic schooling in the South, and especially one frightening nun who would hit childrens' hands with rulers until "her face turned red".  And how the nun would turn with a with the blackboard pointer and point to students, or shake the pointer like it was a javelin.  And my cousin who had similar Catholic schooling in Oak Park would clarify to Frank who my mother was talking about as he returned into the room.  "The penguins." 

My parents had been raised Catholic and dropped the church and were horrified that my sister had taken up an interest in Catholicism during her troubled teenage years.  In fact, in Compton we went to a different church service every single Sunday (or Saturday), one week Lutheran, the next week Assembly of God, evangelic tent meetings in real green circus tents or maybe used Army tents (I went back to one of those with a friend from school and got to see Satan cast out of the body of a small girl wearing a powder blue dress) ... (I had to sneak in to see the rattlesnake Baptists down the street as that was a near secret special ceremony in the usual hillbilly holy roller church).  My parents took us to different church services on the weekends in Compton like it was free entertainment.  And in Claremont I had gone to a Quaker meeting just to see what it was about, just people standing quietly for quite some time until somebody got in the mood to say something.

As a result my mother at least imparted an informal but informed comparative religion.  She could tell you how Roman Catholics differed from Episcopals (English Catholics) and some of the background of the split.  Both my parents, however, hated organized religions.  But they were willing to go to the Unitarian Church in Montclair once I found the place, and they attended a handful of times (until they started getting asked too often for donations and so on via phone call and letter).  You will be amazed to learn that Frank attended one Sunday service with us there.  That's because Unitarianism is not a religion per se. 

And anyway this was about the time that the "Limeliters" appeared over in Montclair, and Lou Gottlieb sang "Roumania, Roumania" ... which the Unitarians especially dug as that's where the church originated, Roumania, and we had martyrs in the church, who had been killed for their beliefs and we were kind of proud of them.  There was in fact quite a group still active in Roumania, despite all odds, and they were still getting killed off.  Years later, I met the daughter of one such martyr, that was when I worked as the church organizer in 2000 or so, and she played hell trying to get official sanction to travel into the U.S. at that time and her impending visit caused much consternation in the church and we didn't want any trouble, so the Quakers application for a room rental was turned down. 

Surely there is more freedom of movement now.

So in Claremont, as a kid, I got to know kids who were traumatized just listening to their parent's stories of surviving the Holocaust, I began to learn any relatives I might have had in Czechoslovakia essentially disappeared during a combination of the Nazi years and the following Stalinist pogroms, while next door the Texas Lutherans informed me they had martyrs in their church, too, during the Nazi years in Europe and they had all been rounded up and thrown in the camps, too ... and on and on and on.  And Frank would hear all these stories from me, as would my other friends.

But before you say Unitarians sound like a bunch of pinkos, which is what people in Claremont for the most part seemed to think, just remember Elliot Richardson was a Unitarian (and he worked high up in the Nixon White House).  Though some people don't like free thinkers, you see, and label them whatever the current label for enemy might be.  Any one with half a brain would recognize that as a truth.  Whether they would stand up for you when the chips are down is anybody's guess.

And on the radio broadcast live on Sundays from somewhere in the Pomona Valley would be a minister who spoke in tongues, and he would start off his rap by stringing together a bunch of foreign names .... "Ebucaneezer .... blah blah blah .... " and this would continue for a number of minutes as his voice grew louder and higher as he was calling on some power to take him over, and then he would launch into babble that had a real word in English or two mixed in that was supposed to be the "sermon from the angels".  I would tune him in now and again on the car radio (as my parents wouldn't allow such a thing in the house) and one time he began going into his heavenly trance and started calling out the names, and he'd just blather the names of old prophets, and the names of angels, and arch angels, "Oh Hosannah!  Oh Michael!  Oh David!  and he even said "Agamemmnon" and I said "What?!  What's that about?!"

I kind of wish there was a recording somewhere of the farm reports that would be read aloud on the radio.  Those were quite popular at the time, too, all spoken in a monotone as if the dj were bored by the act of reading them.  That way music historians or interested parties would recall better what the radio was like in the late '50s and '60s.  There was a lot, a very lot of dreck.  Though some of these things despite their dreck-ness could be interesting because they would become funny in spite of themselves.











 




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