Sunday, March 2, 2008

JESUSLAND

I got back to York on a chilly Friday night. The train carried me to Meridian, Miss. a half hour away. Nathan and Shana picked me up at the station. It was good to see them. They wanted bagels from New York. I brought a couple dozen with me, still fresh from the overnight ride and filling my bag with that particular aroma.
I'd been sorta languishing in New York ever since a big project fell through. So I was eager to return here for a change. But as I traveled south I started wondering what the hell am I doing. I got jobs and friends and a great big loft in the great big City. There's food, conveniences, and rarefied women. What was I thinking leaving it all like this?

Took a couple of quiet days in York to get over the culture shock. Wasn't too hard. I took my walks and greeted people here and there. Turns out folks were wondering when I'd return. Some even came by the Coleman Center while I was away, inquiring about my absence.
I was footing it down a deserted backroad early yesterday morning. A big muddy SUV creeps up from behind and slowly trails me for awhile, arousing all kinds of Deep South nightmares. I stopped and turned to meet my tragic fate. It was Bell, an SUV-sized brother with an SUV-sized heart. We talked for half an hour right there in the middle of the road. He wanted to know how the car was doing, showed me polaroids of his own antique cars and polaroids of his sons and grandkids. You gotta stop and catch up on things. Time meanders by but you get where you're going.
It's been a heartening welcome back. I travel to Demopolis and Choctaw County too. Same thing. All the teachers and Principals are very excited about what I might have in store for them this time around.

When it comes to religion in this here Bible Belt, it's easy to feel superior, frustrated, and disgusted. But like Paul Bowles in Tangier, I'm in Alabama as a devoted traveler - to take it all in without judgement and preconceptions - to appreciate this world for what it is and just groove with it. I do love it here. Church/God/Jesus, so ubiquitous , such a huge part of this cultural fabric I totally adore. I'll just let the religious thing do its thing. Heck, you might even see me in the pews one day. For now, I'm always looking out for the next clever phrase on the church marquee. And I love Sunday morning radio. Every other station broadcasts a worship service and each has a whole different approach. There's tacky church stuff, mean Conservative church stuff, fine fine musical church stuff, friendly hippie church stuff, and insane church stuff.

video

That's Rev. A.J. Jordon. He terrified me at first. This kind of service has a lot of baggage and you feel a little embarrassed and suspicious and you want to run away and hide if not mock and laugh - which is fine. dude is OUT THERE. But I tried to let all that go and just listen to the man. Why not?
Well I actually think the Rev is alright. An OG rock n roller and a pillar of American culture. There'd be no Mick Jagger, Aerosmith or even James Brown without people like Rev. Jordon. He's holding it down for sure. Then on the Non-secular side Rev Jordon was only asking people to love and respect each other. He talked about the big diverse world and how you can hold to your faith and still be a part of it. Sounds good to me.

I am also addicted to the broke down houses. They are simply everywhere. I gotta stop and investigate every single one. So dramatic and expressive and downright beautiful these things. A different story everytime.

They converted this railroad car into some kind of dwelling...

...Nice.

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