Saturday, September 24, 2016


Sometimes, with one swipe,
you can undo things. I think
maybe that's the best lesson
to have come from computer
learning. Imagine today's
10 year olds operating with
that concept. Boy! If  had
even a smidgen of that
idea, growing up, I wonder
how different things
would have been. As
it was, my feelings went
the opposite way  - you
were definitely 'stuck'
with your last decision
and had to stay with it to
the finish. Patience being
a virtue? Fortitude being
a grace? Maybe that's
why people back then
were so glum. No one
ever 'changed' their bad
When I left the seminary,
(it was basically a joint and a
combination-decision. They
preferred I, perhaps, went
home for Thanksgiving to
visit the folks and 'think hard
about your vocation,' as they
put it. They made it clear that
their preference would be
for me not to return  -  they
could see the obvious, as
much as I could. My interests
and activities had veered sharply
from the supposed 'direction'
they should have been going.
Of course, as a sixteen-year
old bubbling and churning
adolescent boy I don't know
why they would have thought
I'd be anything but. They were
used to the passive and pious
sorts who repeated prayers
endlessly, closed their eyes to
pray, and mouthed endless
shibboleths to enter a faded
grace-lad of wonder and awe,
about some purported mysteries
of sanctification from 2,000
years ago. Problem was, that 
wasn't it at all. Their dictates -
(one of my old Little Rascals 
jokes went something like this  -
Spanky and Alfalfa and Buckwheat, 
in a classroom, have to spell 
and use a word given in a 
sentence. The first two do 
fine. Buckwheat's word is 
'dictate.' He spells it OK, 
and then, for the sentence,
he turns to Darla, in the 
back of the room and 
says, 'Darla', how my
dictate?' Always an 
ice-breaker, no?) - were 
from 300 hundred years 
after, with all those church
councils and stuff, when 
the 'church' made up all 
this doctrine and rules 
and all to found their 
ecclesiastical blackmail 
and bureaucracy, to rule 
it all over people. I didn't 
want to rule over anyone. 
And I couldn't much take
their blowhard pretensions
either. So, they sent me
home, with their Wisconsin 
version of 'adios'  -  which 
is actually a Spanish phrase 
of departure meaning  -  
a dios  -  or 'to God', as in 
a dios vais, 'you're going 
to God.' Pretty cool, those 
priests and brothers. They
always used the word 'vocation'
about being a priest. It could 
never be just some idea of 
your own you had, they had 
to say you 'had a vocation,' or
were 'called by God'; and were 
bound to answer your calling';
always the heavy stuff. Gibberish 
to all that. It was more like
 'vacation' to me than it was 
ever 'vocation,' and I'd
never been 'chosen especially' 
for anything, except maybe
in blind man's bluff.
When my father finally 
did arrive, I was awaiting 
him out front with a 
suitcase or two and 
some boxes. I remember 
two things, maybe three:
 it was cold; it was dark;
and I was utterly alone. 
(When I say it was cold,' I 
mean some 1960's cold, the 
kind you don't feel anymore : 
black and white cold, no 
TV and stuff cold; you were 
in the dark, doubtful and dire.
Like people, walking the streets 
blind). And I'd never 
even told anyone I was 
leaving; just couldn't 
bear it to myself to have
to be seeing all those 
old chums and 
buddies again to 
say good-bye. It 
would have been 
good, but real sad 
too. I don't know 
where any but a 
few of them ever 
did end up. We 
threw it all into 
the car and he 
proceeded the drive.
Not much was said  -  
we never talked much,
he was always half-angry 
at me, and I wasn't 
very forthcoming to 
him ever. He never 
liked the whole idea 
of seminary and priests 
stuff anyway. 'Sissy' 
he called it. I couldn't 
really just tell him that 
half of all this had been 
just to get away from that 
home environment that had 
been like a constant, 
circling headache.  The 
next thing I know, on 
the NJ Turnpike, he 
starts rattling off to me, 
now that I was 'out of 
there and free to be a 
kid' what not to do to 
or with girls. Yeah, you 
got that right. It kind of 
turned out, anyway, to be 
a lesson in what TO do, 
because he begins 
explaining to me any 
number of things I'd 
not thought of. They 
were softies. They'd fall 
for lines I didn't mean, so 
don't say them, you give 
it once to them and they 
won't leave you alone, 
etc., etc. Jesus K Rist, I 
had to think, I'm just 
out of the God-slammer 
and this guy's already got 
me in the sack with some 
teen-age floozie. Penance? 
Say ten Hail Mary's and 
take a cold shower, buddy. 
We made it home, and  -  
really  -  until the time I 
picked him up from jail 
in Toms River, having 
bailed him out with my 
house in hock  -  towards 
the end of his life, I don't 
think we ever really talked 
so 'heart to heart' again. 
Both times were on toll 
roads too. Go figure. The 
ride home from the jail in 
Toms River, that was on a 
full-moon night, and all 
he kept doing then was 
telling me how we'd 'given 
up on the moon, abandoned 
it, and now the Russians 
were going to take it.' (He 
meant Commies, but called 
them Russians, meaning 
Soviets).  Anyway, he 
was glad I was out of 
there; he'd never much 
liked the place  - those 
close-quartered boys all 
together, living with 
single men, all of whom 
he considered perverted 
anyway. I don't know, 
you could argue this 
stuff all day. It's not like 
we showered with them, 
although we did have to 
do that all together as 
boys,  equally distressing 
to me. Last thing I ever 
cared to see was some 
strapping religious guy's 
personal scaffolding. 
But, whatever. I used 
to think about visiting 
a nun's school, figuring 
they had to do the same 
thing. And barging through
 their shower rooms saying 
'Close your eyes, girls, 
I'm coming through. 
Well, hell, it was 
funny then.

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