For proper effect, all non-standardly capitalized words or phrases must be spoken (or thought) in a grandiose manner with pauses before and after the word or phrase.
I grew up in a Lutheran home. We went through two or three churches when they would split or have big fights and get off into something my parents couldn't deal with. Sometimes it really meant something, and sometimes it didn't. Mostly when it did was when I was really involved.
Back then, my Mom was into all sorts of ``white magic'' and ``good occult'' stuff - Edgar Cayce, fortune telling, etc. I played around with this, and nothing seemed to do much. During this time, I started corresponding with a friend from somewhere else who wrote through my arm. I also got into self-hypnosis. Neither did a whole lot, but they were better than the emptiness I was feeling inside...
I went through 3 years of catechism classes, followed by the usual Confirmation Ceremony where all the candidates stand in front of the whole church in robes and answer some questions and seal what supposedly happened in infant baptism.
Big deal. Like most of the class, I was up there because I figured my parents would have froke if I hadn't gone through with it. I'd read the books, asked lots of questions, and it all sort of hung together, and all seemed kinda neat, and kinda empty all at once.
A few months later, the youth were preparing for the Annual Youth Service. I was reading some scripture (I have no idea what), when an extra light came on from somewhere up in the recesses of the cavernous, vaulted ceiling, and angels sang, and a dove appeared, and I knew that God loved me.
The euphoria lasted all of a week or so. Then things were back to normal. I was just another punk kid without a clue about life.
I played around with the Satanic Bible, but when I put a curse on my Dad, and he got really sick, I got scared and put it away (after removing the curse). I still liked the idea of the power there, but I wasn't so stupid I didn't recognize evil and the danger it brought, or that this was a world where the strong ruled - and there's always someone stronger than you.
Anything in square brackets ([...]) is a thought I had at the time...
For a while, several of us had been sneaking out at night, breaking into the Knights of Columbus Hall next door to sneak cokes, beer, snacks & occasional change from their register at their bar, or into our former junior high school to steal tools, supplies, chemicals, whatever or just trash the place. One night we got busted by the caretaker at the KofC.
Strangely enough, this turned out to be a good thing.
He called our parents instead of the cops. Some of the guys had been trashing things, and we all ended up having to pay $69.10 each (which frosted the guy who'd gone the night before but not that night, and got busted anyway).
As a result, I had to give up my paper route (we got caught on a weekend morning when we were supposed to be out throwing papers), and the next summer I got sent off to Atlanta to stay with my grandmother and work there.
I did OK at first, but after a while, got bored and ripped off a couple of things. No help - I was still bored. Life was starting to seem kind of pointless (pretty heavy for a kid in 10th grade). I was alone a lot and thought a lot.
When I got back to Augusta, I immediately got ahold of the old gang. Most of them were the same, but one conversation went like this:
``Miles, something happened this summer.''Anyway, Joe spent the next hour telling me about how the Holy Spirit was Still Alive and Well [just like Johnny Winter, I guessed] and how it really made a difference, and you could get back what you'd had for just a few days after you got saved...
``Miles, are you a Christian?''
``What?'' [Knowing Joe, this was obviously a setup...]
``Have you ever been born again? Accepted Christ?''
``Oh, yeah, sure. Yeah. For a while, now.'' [What is this nut up to?]
``GREAT! I have, too! So has Hank!''
[Huh? Joe? Hank? Christians? Two of the best heathens I know? And talking about it!?]
That hit home. So they gave me some books and we talked about stuff, and I prayed, and got ``baptized in the Spirit''. And it really did make a difference all through high school. I started going to extra meetings and churches. Met some whacked out people and some really great saints. One night, I heard a voice. It said, ``you will go off to college and get into drugs, so that you can relate to druggies and get them saved.'' I shared this with some people at this meeting, and they thought it was great! (This should have been a tipoff about them, but I was as out in lala land as some of them.) I embraced the thought, then promptly forgot about it.
During this time I got rid of all the Satanic junk. Somehow I couldn't tear up the Satanic Bible, so I took it to school, told a couple of friends (Earl Something and Mike Dysart) I was repudiating this stuff, and they tore it up for me.
I don't have anything to put here, but I like symmetry sometimes, you know?
Being away at Georgia Tech was the first time in my life I'd really been unsupervised for any length of time. At the time, GT would let almost anyone with decent grades or SATs in, then make life incredibly difficult to weed people out. That way they got your money AND a reputation as a hard school. Great people, huh?
Anyway, the Christians I met in the dorm were kind of flaky. I also knew a few of the dopers from my high school, some of whom I was friends with. While the Christians were all putting weird demands on me about hair, dress, language, who I talked to, etc, the freaks were just there, being friends.
So, naturally, I wanted what they had, and started smoking pot (I was already starting to drink heavily). Turned out my roomie and another couple of new friends I met doing graffiti in The Tunnel (5th St under I-75) started doing pot about the same time. I quickly got into every hallucinogen I could find. Acid was my most favorite thing in the world. I tripped every chance I got. I helped some of my friends deal to other friends, because that made the stuff cheaper (even free) for us, which was pretty important since we were going through an ounce of pot every day or 2, and tripping 2-3 times a week (plus whatever else we got ahold of - ups, downs, whatever).
I accidentally earned the nickname Mad Dog, and immediately started trying to live up to the name, and make the name famous. This had a couple of benefits. One was that for the first time in my life, I (who was never a fighter) didn't have to live in fear of the bigger guys - my crazy reputation kept them at bay. Second, in an environment where the male to female ratio was 13 to 1, anything that got attention was a plus.
My GPA at the end of the first quarter was a 0.2 with 2 incompletes (eventually a 0.5).
Next quarter was just more of the same. My parents decided to bring me home to a local college to get my GPA up. Just before the end of the quarter, I started praying again, straightened up, and stopped the bad craziness (During this time, I attended a rather ``interesting'' church a couple of times). Even burned my official Mad Dog hat. And met Kenneth Riviere's younger sister, Jacqueline, the night before I had to leave town, and fell madly in love, as did she.
(from an otherwise not too memorable song)
I had excellent, supportive teachers at Augusta College (they would have been great even if Dad hadn't taught there, been respected, and been friends with all my profs). I got good grades, and stayed clean. I wrote & called Jackie all the time, and planned a visit spring quarter and one in the summer. When summer started, I went back to the Arby's I had worked at the summer before, this time as an assistant manager. All my money went to the phone bill, or the trips to Atlanta.
I started hanging with the other assistant managers, one of whom lived nearby. The 2nd or 3rd party at his place I gave in and got stoned again. It was like I'd never left. When I visited Jackie in Atlanta for a week, I got back into serious drugs via my old friends in the area.
Back in Augusta, a really mixed up guy I'd been in high school with, Byron, showed up at one of Tommy's parties. I'd witnessed to Byron a lot. When Byron saw me stoned out of my gourd, he just gave me the weirdest look. I felt about 2 inches tall.
So of course I smoked faster and passed out.
One of my sisters was now after me to get her acid. She was pretty nutso, and the thought of her on LSD was really scary. I realized I was an influence on her, and didn't like it (talk about heavy!) I was also fighting constantly with my parents by now.
I lost the job at Arby's. The one night I got stoned at work, I left the money in a drawer instead of a safe. And I had to come down on two kids who were slacking off. So they decided to tell on me for being stoned before I could tell on them for being goofs (which I didn't intend to do - I planned to give them another chance).
This was near summer's end. So I decided that come fall, I would go back to Ga. Tech (this time on my own). My parents, who had always said that at 18, I was either in college or on my own, managed to surprise me. I thought they'd be elated.
They disowned me.
Who says you can't be a Christian, Buddhist, hippie, druggie?
I had no money, so the first quarter I just crashed with my friends Nick & Lowell in their dorm room. Fortunately the dorm counselors knew me and took pity on me. I was a leech, but I thought I was a revolutionary. I knew Abbie Hoffman's stuff inside out. My only income was from occasionally helping friends deal.
Jackie's letters and phone tone had changed just before I moved back to Atlanta. I knew she just needed me closer. Ha. A month too late. Some other guy had moved in on me, and I was out in the extreme cold. I was devastated. Probably as devastated as I'd ever been in my life. Kenneth took me out and got me stoned out of my gourd.
Later that fall, I ended up at an NSA (Nichiren-shoshu Soka-gokkai Academy) Buddhist group meeting, mainly because two foxy looking chicks had invited me. Sylvia was with the leader, Bill, but Kathy was free. So when Bill explained that this was a philosophy that put you in harmony with the universe, and chanting could get you anything you wanted (as long as it wasn't bad for you or someone else - this was a big karma thing), I chanted to get Kathy. Naturally, I told no one.
Within a week, we were lovers (and she put the moves on me - which pretty well settled things in my mind, because I was not the sort of guy girls fell all over). I was hooked. I got the Gohunzen, put it in a little shrine, and chanted my fanny off for months.
Winter quarter, I enrolled for one class, and officially moved back into the dorm. I ended up rooming with Robin, a good friend. That winter, Byron (remember the guy from high school and Tommy's party?) killed himself. He had screwed up with his girlfriend, and had nobody he felt could help him (I sure wasn't in any place to do any good). This hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd failed God, failed Byron. I was scared to death - for Byron and for me. I cried, went to the funeral with another crazy freak at GT (Steve), and forgot about it as fast as I could.
That Easter, I got right with God for a week or so, but I kept thinking the Bible said that if you slept with someone you were married. But we weren't married, so I knew sex was out until we got married. She'd finally made me forget Jackie (there's a whole comedy about this, but I'll save that for another time), and I loved her, and her kid, and wanted to marry her. But in the meantime, we still slept in the same bed, which meant it wasn't long til everything was back where it had been.
That summer, things began to come apart. I still had a nowhere job at Burger King making about $120/month. Kathy and I were not communicating that well. The drugs were even beginning to lose some of their luster (I'd even gone clean for a couple of weeks after hallucinating savagely while not high). Many of the NSA leaders I was around turned out to be even more hypocritical than the people I'd been unhappy with in churches (and I was training for leadership in this!?)
I desperately wanted God back in my life. I started praying, and finally realized that as long as I was with Kathy, I'd never have a chance. But I couldn't let go. I loved her, and by now was pretty dependent on her love. One day, I got really serious, and told God that I wanted back, but couldn't leave Kathy, and that if He wanted me back, He'd have to break us up.
That afternoon, she blew up over something minor. Literally, from that day, we couldn't be together more than a few minutes without fighting. I moved out. She started going to Roger, one of the NSA leaders, for counseling, then for comfort, then for everything else (we were working things out - uh huh). Finally one day Eli (her 4 year old) asked why I never put him to bed any more. I explained that his mommy and I were having a hard time with things, and I just couldn't be there at night, but that I loved him, and wanted to be there, and that he should pray and chant and everything else for things to work out between Kathy and I.
The poor little guy saw his daddy a lot, but daddy was married to Gloria (Kathy's best friend), and Eli wanted a daddy at home. Kathy's lonely, desperate life had included a succession of men, mostly for a night or week or two, and I was the first one who'd really been like a daddy to him. It tore me up.
But the clincher was that I then asked if Roger put him to bed at night. ``Yes, but I wish you would.'' ``Does Roger sleep over there, too?'' ``Yes.'' ``Does mommy love Roger?'' ``I think so.'' I lost it and started bawling. Desperately, Eli hugged me, ``But mommy loves you, too!'' So here's this lonely little 4-year old kid, trying to comfort this 20 year old kid who's been thinking of being a husband and daddy, and he's even lonelier than the 4-year old. Kathy walked into the room, took one look, and split - pretty scared. And well she should have been.
I caught up with her after I quit crying. ``Why didn't you tell me? Why did you lie to me?'' ``I didn't want to hurt you.'' [AAAIIIIEEEEE!!!!!! A hot knife in the eyeball would hurt less!]
HINT: Don't ever do this to somebody.
Don't ever sing that song around me. Ever.
I left Burger King when my manager left, and the successor was threatening to send me to Whopper College. (I just could NOT see a WC diploma on my wall, nor was I willing to cut my hair.) Ted, one of my Buddhist friends, helped me get a job at...
Saks Fifth AvenueYikes!!!
Even in Shipping & Receiving, what kind of job is this for a freak? Strangely enough, I got along great with everyone from the store president (Mr. Aquino, I believe) through sales through personnel. All except Diane, a VP who happened to be over...
shipping & receiving.
It didn't take long before I had another girlfriend, who had no interest in God. (Gee, I'm sharp.) Liz was David's sister (he was my first college roomie). We decided we really liked each other, and wanted to do the hippie live together thing, with no strings, and be free to have other lovers. So we did.
While at Saks, I met some people selling flowers on a nearby street corner. Shane and Skoshie were hard core hippies. Husband and wife, they usually had a lover or two. Skoshie decided I would be her next lover. I was. I got deeper into drugs. No longer content to trip my brains out, I wanted not a different reality, but pure escape. If I was conscious, or at least able to walk, something was seriously wrong.
Liz fell in love with me. I insisted we abide by our agreement, which meant I got to do whatever I wanted. I was a total jackass, and as much as I'd always hated piggie type males, I had become one, without even a clue. I treated Liz like dirt, and couldn't (wouldn't) see it. I was as big a scumbag as I've ever known.
One day I decided to thumb home (I was saving bus fare for a Fleetwood Mac concert (Nicks & Buckingham had just joined them, but I hadn't heard the new stuff yet, and I loved Fleetwood Mac)). The freaky-looking guy (Ben) in the VW Bug who picked me up took me all the way home. He started talking about Jesus. "Oh, yeah, I'm a Christian, too." [Anything to head this one off.] He saw through it, but stayed low key. He gave me his phone number, I gave him a promise to call & go to church with him. I promptly forgot it.
The concert was great. The acid was awesome. I was a twit to Liz.
One night during this time I woke up staring at a Lou Reed poster (from the Rock And Roll Animal album), and praying in tongues. This was a total flipout (I'd gone to bed high with Liz). Not long afterwards, I occasionally began thinking about God, again. It was too eerie to ignore, you know?
Kathy & Roger had gotten married. Another Buddhist friend, Selena, threw a party at her apartment clubhouse for them. I took my whole stash (a couple ounces of hash). During the party, the apartment security guy showed up on a tip, found the hash, and flushed it down the toilet. No drugs, and no spare money for more. (And Selena got in trouble with her mom, of course. Great, Miles.)
Life was getting to be a bummer again. Drugs weren't helping as much as they used to. Liz was on my case (and I knew somewhere deep inside that I wasn't being very cool with her). Shane & Skoshie were fighting. Diane was making life at Saks hell (she didn't like having a longhair in her store). I took off at the end of the quarter for a couple of days with Rick, to see his family in Chattanooga. I thumbed back, and caught a ride with a guy going close to Tampa.
The Pomponios were a wonderful diversion. Still are.
One of my very best friends throughout college and beyond was Nick Pomponio. His family treated me like family. I would help Nick drive (he hated long distance driving alone) every quarter - either down to Tampa for his co-op quarter, or back to Atlanta at the end of co-op quarter. His parents always insisted I spend a week there when I did that. A week in Florida with a real family. Near the beach. What more could I ask for?
This was the first quarter in a long time I hadn't helped Nick drive, and I didn't expect to see him until the next quarter break. But when that guy headed to Orlando picked me up in Chattanooga, and I thought about going in to work on Monday and the garbage that awaited me there, and about not seeing Nick or his family for a while... I didn't go to Atlanta. I went to Florida. With no drugs. We did stop long enough in Atlanta for me to make us some sandwiches (we lived just off I-75), grab some more clothes, and leave a 1-line note:
``gone to Florida -Miles''.
A few days later I called back to Atlanta. Liz said Saks had called, asking about me. ``What did you tell them?'' Liz was cool. Liz would have taken care of things.
With only a hint of glee in her voice, she told me. ``That you decided to go to Florida, and we don't know when you'll be back.''
``You just left a <expletive deleted> one line note that didn't say anything. No goodbye. Nothing. What did you expect?''
I hated the job (actually, I liked it - I hated having to put up with Diane), but it was the only one I had. Now what?
So one day I'm at the Pomponio's house alone. Everyone is at work, school or shopping. I'm bored, so I go looking through Nick, Jr's (my friend was Nick III) massive book collection. Thousands of books. But I can't focus on a title. Until I see the Bible. ``Oh, that's cool. I haven't read that in a while.'' Throw Elton John's Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road on the stereo. Start reading (I have no idea where).
Now dig this. I'm listening to the side of the album with really Christian (hint - that's sarcasm) songs like, ``All the Girls Love Alice''. Reading an Authorized King James Version Bible. No drugs for several days. And next thing I know...
No, this wasn't a flashback, or a hallucination. I know them too well, and this was totally different...
I'm right on the edge of Heaven. Jesus is right beside me. And it's so incredibly, mind-blowingly beautiful inside - it's everything I ever wanted, and I desperately want in - and I can't go. Something is keeping me out. This goes on for either a nanosecond or eternity, it was kind of hard to tell.
Then, just as suddenly, I'm on the edge of Hell, with Jesus still at my side. And it's just as terrifying, horrible, and evil as Heaven was wonderful. It's like this monster waiting to devour me slowly, at leisure, and it's sucking me in, and I can't stop it! This goes on for either a nanosecond or eternity, it was still kind of hard to tell.
Then, everything ceases to exist, except me and this incredible, awesome, white light energy source. I don't have to ask, and He doesn't need to introduce Himself. The energy is unbelievable; it's obvious that this is Who keeps the whole universe going, all alone.
Only a few words, spoken directly into whatever is really me. This is it. I've seen Heaven and I've seen Hell. Choose now. This is my only chance.
The energy is like radioactive love. It's warm, but it could be hot death. It's Justice. Mercy. Truth. Perfection. A heartbeat or an eon passes.
What can I do? I choose life. I bask in the Presence for a while.
I'm back in Nick's room. Nigel Guitar Guy is wailing away on ``Love Lies Bleeding'', and it's an anthem of power and holiness for a moment, as I recognize that love does lie bleeding in my hands. The entire world has been turned inside out, run through a washer, and turned rightside out again. I have no idea how long the vision, or time I was elsewhere, or whatever really happened, lasted. I only know I'm different, everything is different, and what on Earth am I going to do with it?
Copyright 1995 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved. Miles O'Neal <roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514