Revenge Of The Dumbass – James Park And His Idiot Watch

They Can’t Even Spell ‘Idiot’ Right.

Yesterday Fitbit announced their idiot smartwatch called the Iconic.

It runs for $299.95. This is James Park’s Apple Watch killer. We will see.

When the Surge came out in early 2015, it was supposed to be the Apple Watch killer too. The Surge was priced at $250 nicely below Apple’s $369 price tag. The Surge had a GPS, played songs, displayed your text messages, and had a bunch of other zowie keen features. It also had brittle wristband that was integrated into the watch. That meant when the band broke, the watch was finished. And break the bands did. The Fitbit community site lit up like a Christmas tree with customer’s broken Surge band complaints by the summer of 2015; Twitter surged with Surge broken band twits. Fitbit’s fix – 25% discount on a new Surge!! A lot of the Surge broken banders took Fitbit up on that discount figuring, I guess, their experiences were uniquely rare. But no – within a year they were back complaining that the second Surge’s band broke too. A what did Fitbit offer them? Another 25% discount! By that time, these Surge customers tended to start calling crap crap.

The Surge put zero dents into Apple’s smartwatch sales. But Fitbit stock declined over 50% in 2015 while Surge was their top end ‘super watch’.

Your Typical Fitbit Blaze

Then, in January 2016, came the Blaze. (Note how Fitbit cunningly released the watch AFTER the Holidays, confounding marketing strategists to this day). Fitbit fixed the band problem – the Blaze had replaceable bands which Fitbit sold for half the price of a Blaze (Blaze $199; Blaze replacement band, $99). But the generics flooded the market with $10 replacement bands so Fitbits highway robbery was no big deal. However, the Blaze had a nasty little problem in that its glass screen cracked very easily. Suddenly, all the online Fitbit complaint platforms were flooded with stories about Blaze cracked watch faces after a month or two use. Fitbit’s fix – you could guess: 25% discount on a new Blaze. The watch case was not covered by any warranty.

Fitbit Can’t Fix A Cracked Blaze Screen. But You Can – Repair Kit Is $9.95 At Walmart.

The Blaze was not the market disrupter Fitbit was hoping for. 2016 saw their stock decrease by another 50%. Some lower end products were introduced – the Flex 2, the Altra HR, and the Charge 2 but none of them helped. 2016 was also the year of the consumer revolt – Fitbit was hit with one court suit that alleged their heart beat monitor results were mostly fiction, then a class action suit was filed claiming Fitbit’s sleep monitoring capability was more of an aspiration than a reality, and finally another class action suit was filed over Fitbit bands that caused skin irritation and chemical burns. Fitbit’s response to all the cases was that they were frivolous and unfounded though the company did recall over a million Flex/Charge/Altra bands after 10,000 customers reported skin blisters after wearing the devices. Coincidences indeed do happen.

So now we have the Ionic. This is the smartwatch that will topple the Apple Watch from its throne and relaunch fair sailing for Fitbit on Wall Street. The Ionic has a few little problems it has to grapple with first:

Price – At $300 it is 40 dollars more expensive than the Apple 1 Watch and doesn’t do most of the things that watch does. For $70 more, you can get an Apple 2 Watch which certainly does a lot more stuff than the Iconic. In two weeks, Apple will announce the Apple 3 Watch at probably the same price as the Apple 2 with even more stuff inside it than the Iconic has. Bad timing for Jame’s here. He should have at least waited until Apple made their move, then undercut their prices with some smart positioning. Now Apple gets to do that to Fitbit if they cared, which they probably don’t.

Applications – Well there aren’t any yet. The OS inside the Ionic is the Pebble OS. I am sure you have heard of it. Most non-Apple smartwatches use the wearable version of Android as their OS. It is powerful. There are scores of applications written in it. The license is cheap (i.e., free) from Google. But no, Fitbit bought a company called Pebble two years ago because they were developing a wearable OS to die for. Now you can own it on your Iconic. But with no applications.

Sport Features – At the end of the day, Fitbit strives to be a top notch sports watch. With the Ionic, Fitbit adds (finally) swimming as well as additional capabilities for biking and running. The problem these guys will run into is that right now Garmin, Nike, Samsung and Xiaomi do it better for about the same cost. The Apple 2 is nearly equivalent and the Apple 3 will surpass it. The Ionic is chocked full of things a Triathloner would love but it’s not the best of breed but carries a price as if it was.

The Big Break – What we don’t know yet is what breaks on this watch. Every Fitbit has a nasty design fault. Fitbit doesn’t have stacks of 25% discount coupons in their customer service offices for nothing. They use those babies. You can bet the Fitbit community board will be running amock in six months with some reoccurring Iconic problem or another.

James Claims His Blaze Never Ever Ever Cracks.

At the end of the day, the fact is there are dozens of smart watches out there that are cheaper and/or have more features and/or are more reliable than the Ionic. So who would buy an Ionic? If you were employed by Fitbit, got suckered into buying their stock and still own it, or you have some of those 25% discount coupons laying around, you might want this watch. Or if you were an idiot.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kim Jong Un – Un

Another week and another missile test by North Korean. Then came the obligatory UN vote for new sanctions, threats to fire bomb a million US cities from Kim Jong Un, followed by Trump vowing to sizzle the Korean peninsula. How does this all end?

Shit. Lots Of Korean Shit.

Badly. Kim Jong Un is crazy. Donald Trump is crazier. They both give every indication they have an IQ of an idiot but like all idiots, they each think they are the smartest people on earth. Kim will launch a missile at LA as soon as he gets one he thinks will actually reach there. Trump will try to shoot it down which might or might not work but in any event he will unleash a bunch of nukes on Pyongyang reducing it and most of Seoul to rubble. Trump might just nuke North Korea for the hell of it. He is ditsy enough. Plus his ratings could use a war.

There is another way, a diplomatic way, to defuse the whole thing. It is a tribute to the endless stupidity of American leadership that they think they can threaten their way out of this. Every time US turns the screw a little tighter, Kim just blows a fart in its face and chows down more beans. Have we learned nothing in the last 10 years about the fat little Great Leader of barren earth and rocky mountains? He has nothing to lose. Literally. There is nothing there. Why on earth does anyone believe threats would have any effect.

We should listen to the Chinese. According to Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister, all Kim Jong Un wants is for the United States to acknowledge him – not as an idiot but as a leader. And not as a leader of a piss ant worthless piece of rock but the leader of a powerful fecund country. He wants to hear lies.

Now that should be easy. Who is the other stupid person who lives to hear lies? You got it: the Trumpster.

You would think the Rex Tillerson would figure it out pretty fast. Tillerson, who CEO’ed Exxon, should know how to motivate people and negotiate deals. It’s simple – each side needs to end up thinking they got the better of the other.

How does it work? You have two very stupid leaders so you start by telling them how smart they are. Each is the smartest living person on earth. You also tell them the other is dumber than dog shit but doesn’t know it. Lay it on thick.

They both are stuck up on the size of their cocks. So you tell Kim that Trumps dick is the length of his pinky and as thick as an earth worm – just look at his itty bitty hands. Show Trump some pictures of Kim squatting down to take a piss (easy Photoshop job). The little shithead can’t even find his dick.


The Two Smartest People On Earth Enjoying A Black Moment.

At this point, you tell them each the con.

Kim Song Un and the Golden Key: Kim takes all of his missiles and moves them under a different mountain. Then be puts a great big lock on door of the mountain they used to be in and offers to give Trump the key to it. It is a key made from gold. Trump can go in anytime to see that it is empty.

Donald Trump’s Really Great Golf Outing: Trump is coached to tell Kim that if the nukes are removed, he will welcome him to Mar-a-Lago as really great leader of a really great country. Plus they can talk trash together and play golf with Tiger Woods. Kim and even bring his boy Rodman along.


The Two Smartest People On Earth Enjoying A Korean Gymnastic Moment.

Tillerson gets the Chinese to deliver Trump’s deal to Kim; Rodman meets with Trump to lure him with the golden key. Done.

But it doesn’t stop there. This is where Rex pulls that Exxon magic of calling climate change the hoax of two scientists in Finland. While Kim is down in Florida, he will be whisked off on a side trip to Disney World. The man goes nuts. Then they give him an iPhone as a souvenir. He flips out.

Back in Pyongyang, Kim will discover pretty quickly that the iPhone works for shit with North Korea’s lone cell tower. So Kim invites his new American friends to build him a cell network and sell his lackeys some phones. Apple loves the idea of slave labor and moves one its fabrication plants from China to Hamhung, a bustling city of a million people a 100 miles north of the DMZ. Suddenly, Kim Song Un is vested in America.

What’s Trump got? A large shiny gold key. He also has a new little friend who has a season pass to Disney World and a private cottage in Tiger Woods estate a couple miles down the coast from Ma-a-Lago.

With the Americanization of Kim Song Un, Tillerson repays a little of his debt to the parts of the ocean he has killed. Magic Kingdom fanatics don’t nuke Mickey Mouse. Donald Trump goes to North Korean twice a year to make sure that his big golden key still opens the door to an empty room. While he is there, he might as well take in a little soiree with the North Korean woman’s gymnastic team. Such little women spinning around for a big man with big key and a big man thing.


You Really Can’t Make This Stuff Up. Rodman Giving Trump Books To The North Korean Gymnastic Coach.

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

Dog Days At The BBC

Today, the dog’s days of summer starts in Finland. This is for real. Google it. The high today in Helsinki was 68°. The low tonight will be 52°. In Miami, the high today was 97°; the low tonight will be 79°. A Finn would not know a real dog’s summer day if a Lapponian Herder bit them in the butt.

 


US 1 –
The
Staff Wanted A Name They Could Remember

I work out at a place called US 1 Fitness, which is a fitness center on US 1 in North Miami. Creating catchy names is not their strong suit but they have a pretty nice gym. Saturday mornings I regularly join a couple dozen other ‘it’s too damn hot in the morning to run in’ neighbors in the cardio section of the gym. We stream out over treadmills, elliptical machines and stationary bikes to get some heart pumping done. Cardio is pretty boring. US 1 Fitness has 10 television monitors surrounding the cardio room playing whatever morning shows the gym staff think are interesting. The staff are all between 20 and 24 years old and God subtracted 10 points from each of their IQs for every inch He added to their biceps. So they turn on the monitors closest to the check-in desk to MTV and reruns of last year’s football games. The QVC channel is on everywhere else.

Most of us ignore the TVs and listen to Podcasts. They are varied and cheap (i.e., free). Surprisingly, there are always a large group that follows the same three shows: the BBC’s Comedy of the Week , Real Time With Bill Maher, and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (WWDTM). These shows get the most play because they are fresh and topical. The Comedy of the Week and Maher are broadcast on Fridays and they have the current show in the iTunes store early Saturday morning. WWDTM broadcasts on Saturday so their podcast is usually a week behind though from time to time NPR screws up and releases it to iTunes early Saturday before it actually has its national distribution later that day. The shows’ common thread is humor around current events.

The American series have their problems each summer. Maher takes off for four or five weeks in July so no shows then. About the same time, WWDTM starts inserting reruns frequently – QVC tends to be more entertaining than topical jokes replayed months after their event topic. This would all point to a natural surge to BBC comedy podcasts. But no, the British take fiendish revenge on their New World friends in July – they change their lineup to broadcast six weeks of a ‘comedy’ called The Museum Of Curiosities.

The Staff Wanted A Way To Remember The Name

The way the Comedy of the Week works is that the BBC rotates their broadcast schedule between four series: The Now Show (comedy sketches around the week’s news), Dead Ringers (impressionists who mimic the week’s news makers), The News Quiz (a panel of comedians answering questions about the news) and The Museum Of Curiosities. Each show is broadcast for 6 to 8 continuous Friday evenings and then rests for six months and then they all do it again. Yes it is somewhat nutty to Americans but the BBC has been doing it for a decade so you get used to it after a while.

They Remember The Name If They Don’t Move

The Now Show, Dead Ringers and The News Quiz all focus on the week’s news. The last two years have been particularly robust for British comedians what with David Cameron calling an EU referendum that never needed to be held, then lost it; suddenly Teresa May popped out of cake; meanwhile Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were clawing at each other’s faces; after which the US elected a gigantic gorilla as President; that inspired Teresa May to call an election that never needed to be held, then lost it; quickly followed by the British cabinet attempting to out buffoon the US’s gorilla President’s stupid son in-law and stupider son; and on and on and on. Few periods in the history of the English speaking peoples has been as rich as the past two years for goofy material and utter loathsome people.


An American Could Never Invent This Type Of Stuff

Where does The Museum Of Curiosities fit in? Well, it is not about current events. The Museum of Curiosities is built around three guests giving imaginary gifts to an imaginary museum. Then they and the host (the museum’s curator of course) talking about the significance of the gifts. The guests are English minor celebrities, the imaginary gifts can be anything (A Pineapple, The Epping Forest, and a Rabbit are examples. The website en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Museum_of_Curiosity lists everything given since 2008) and the entertainment level of the conversation around the gifts can be measured by taking the weight of the celebrity times the weight of the gift times a million (if you are British) or millionth (if you are not). They banter for thirty minutes or an eternity depending upon what side of the Atlantic you are on.

I suppose the Museum Of Curiosities is one of those quaint little British eccentricities we American are fond of ascribing to our forefathers overseas. Yes it’s a bit dotty; and of course show is unlistenable for more than five minutes. But isn’t it cute? It is so so British.


Step Mom Steps In

And it is. The unfortunate thing is that the BBC started the six week run of the thing yesterday. Maher is on his second week of vacation. WWDTM is doing the best of last year’s nursery rhymes and even the QVC channel seems to have run out Ivanka junk to sell. Alabama’s 2011 football season must have been a pretty good year; it has playing continuously on the sports channel for a week.

So the dead days of summer have come to North Miami. The weather outside is a steam sauna run amok. But we are here, Saturday morning, churning on a bike that never moves or hoofing it on a slow moving tread. Cursing Bill Maher’s trip to Hawaii, Peter Sagal’s boating around the UP and the bloody British with their stupid goofy radio shows.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Miami Art’s Big Art Departs

 

Paco Sanchez opened his first studio on SW 17th Avenue in southwest Miami nearly forty-five years ago. SW 17th was a grimy tattered neighborhood then just like it is now. Paco was twenty-five at the time, still sleeping in his parents living room in their tiny apartment in Little Havana. He was starting to create a new style of art no one seemed to care about. Paco called it Arte Libre. It was big. Really big. The first time I visited his studio, he had a half dozen pieces propped up against the wall. The smallest was 10′ long and 12′ high. The scene was Jesus praying in the Mount of Olives after the Last Supper – in dazzlingly, almost day glow colors. Titled ‘Noche Oracion’ it was a Jesus drawn in broad jagged brush strokes using amazing blue and red acrylics. His glittering star shaped eyes gazed up into a fumous fiery heaven. It was an arresting, wonderful painting. I was looking for some pieces to put in my gallery. What could I do with this? With any of them? I’d have to rent a moving van.

So Noche Oracion stayed on SW 17th street for nearly eight years. In 1982, the Dade Art Museum in Vizcaya bought it for $15,000, a pretty nice sum in those days. You can see it on the third floor of the Perez today. I think it’s valued at around a million. If you can find a big enough wall.

By the late 1980s, Paco’s Arte Libre was hot. He had moved his studio to West Avenue in Miami Beach. There was a warren of about 20 studios there; Miami’s art scene was shifting to the Beach just as the Beach was about to wake up and rebuild itself. Lincoln Mall was built five years after Paco moved into West Avenue. The South Beach Commerce Chamber commissioned a mural on the corner of Lincoln and Jefferson. The result was Bounty – it was building size – three stories tall and a half a block long. It was pop stylize Arte Libre of a woman holding a conch shell of overflowing flowers.

South Beach hit the big time by 1995. Lincoln Mall had the hippest boutiques, tiny, enormously expensive restaurants and Michael Tilson Thomas’s New World Symphony. West Avenue was Miami’s art center. Paco kept his ‘studio’ there but it became basically a sales shop. He moved himself and all his stuff into a warehouse up in North Miami four blocks from my gallery. That was when we renewed our friendship.

Paco was one of those fortunate artists who studied with John Baldessari at Caltech in the early 70s. Davide Salle was a classmate and remains a lifelong friend. Arte Libre has its expressionistic roots in Baldessari’s mature paintings and early experiments combining pattern highlights with photographs. Early Arte Libre works such as Noche Oracion use flurries of brush strokes that juxtapose loud grainy colors against each other. As he matured his style, the brush strokes became shorter, sometimes micro flecks of the brush that allowed him to achieve remarkable realist effects. He used this technic to emphasize the eyes of Jesus in Noche Oracion and the beautifully sculptured finger tips of Mary in Bounty.

Not everything was Jesus and Mary but Paco was deeply religious. He is also a radical socialist. Diego Riviera was a hero. So were Salvador Allende and Cesar Chavez. Paco did his share paintings inspired from some biblical theme or other. I used to dog him about amount of Jesus crap he had stacked in the back of the warehouse – there are only so many churches around that handle a 30′ x 40′ Jesus picture. You tap out that market, I told him. Go for smaller. Or maybe some nice landscapes.

Paco’s secular works were typically simple studies of men and women working in a factory, embracing on the beach, playing with children at a barbeque. Everyday people (always of color) doing every day thing. Again, in a big way.

In rare instances, Paco would turn to political themes when something got up his craw long enough. He had a triptych of LBJ, Nixon and a blood covered Vietnamese kid in his studio when I first met him. Paco hated Nixon. Long after the trickster left this planet, his sagging jowls and devil’s eyes turned up in silhouettes in dozens of works. Bill Clinton invited him to the White House in 1999. Paco politely declined. He had nothing good or bad to say about Clinton or Bush or even Obama.

Paco never had a problem selling a painting after 1985. His problem was letting them go. Paco Sanchez painted for Paco Sanchez. His works were his children and you don’t sell your children. But still, you don’t stack your children up in a warehouse either.

Starting in the 80s, I always had two or three of Paco’s work in my gallery. They took up enormous amounts of space and always had a NFS tag on them. They were fabulous paintings. Though I never sold any, they increased the foot traffic they brought into the gallery was huge. I promised to give Paco a slice of our profits someday. It was a joke of course, the gallery barely earned (even now) the overhead to keep it open.

One morning last April, Paco and I were eating eggs and frijoles at La Bandera on NE 125th street a few blocks from his warehouse. Paco had turned 70 the week before. He told me the time had come for him to close the place. He had some projects he’d been putting off for years and years and he wanted to get to them while he had time. Baldessari asked him to team up to do a masters class in the fall at UCLA. He was going to put together a show for Le Salon Criquet in New York in spring of 2018. He planned to accompany it when it moved to London at the end of year and on to Berlin in 2019. He had a grandson in Brazil he wanted to spend time with and portrait on. Busy man.

Next week, he and a couple of helpers are coming over to the New Hudson Exit to pack up the three paintings he has here and take them down the street to his warehouse. I am going to have a ton of new space to fill up in the next few mounts.

After he finishes selecting whatever is going to go on tour next year, the rest are moving to a climate controlled storage facility somewhere in southern California. And there they will sit in dark humidity controlled lockers; some are the rarest works of genius. But sit they will, unseen and all NFS.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Unimpeachable Donald Trump

This summer is turning out to be long and hot for President Trump. Robert Mueller is sniffing around the stack of Comey’s memos; Flynn is dog meat waiting for the Senate Intelligence committee to feast upon; Jared Kushner who hasn’t said a dozen words in public since Trump’s inauguration has apparently done a whole lot of schmoozing with ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and enough Russian bankers to field a soccer team; then there’s Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Jeff Sessions and J.D. Gordon. Last week Mueller quietly informed Trump that he, America’s twittering President, is under investigation for obstruction of justice.


A Really Bad Idea

The ‘I’ word has been floating around for weeks but now many Democrats and a few lonely Republicans have started to visibly salivate: we have the bastard in our sights; we are going to impeach this guy and throw him out.

Are they crazy?

Trump is unimpeachable. He didn’t plan it that way for sure, but that’s how it is. All those guys who think impeachment is the easy way out of the mess America has got itself into are as dumb as Trump is. They have suckered themselves into a la la land fantasy where real issues get poofed away with Emma Stone’s little tap dance number over the moon.

Why can’t Trump be impeached? It’s pretty simple: (1) The moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party prevents any real number of them from admitting and of Trumps obstruction of justice (or perjury, bribery, theft, etc.) activities are impeachable offenses, and (2) the constitutional Presidential succession plan ensures that whoever replaces Trump is actually more foul and heartless than he is.

It’s sad, but a lot of democrats and most us citizens naively think that if presented with actual evidence of presidential malfeasance, House Republicans would do the right thing and vote articles of impeachment. Even Trump knows better than that. He nailed it during the elections when he noted he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and walk away from it. The Republican Party sees Trump as their savior to: [Multiple Choice Answer-Insert Yours Here]

(a) abolish healthcare for all poor/old/disable Americans,

(b) shift corporate and high income tax rates to everyone else,

(c) dismember social security,

(d) dissolve Medicare,

(e) deport the Hispanics, Middle Easterners and Asians from out of the country

(f) rebuild Jim Crow,

(g) revoke woman’s rights,

(h) pass any number of wacko laws that promote 1950s style white majorities rule.

 


A Good Stiff Whack On The Back Of My Head At Bedtime Is What Works For Me

Trump doesn’t give a shit about any of this stuff (well except maybe the deportation thing) but he will support any of them his Make America Great fan club goes gaga over. You got a guy like Paul Ryan who from time to time publically cringes at Trump’s more egregious lies and slanders but in the end, Ryan would give his eye teeth to gut the tax law, dismember social security and get rid of Medicare. He would help Trump gun down guys on Fifth Avenue if Trump helps him sweep away any social contract American has with its people. There are 246 other Republicans just like Ryan in the House. Trump is their meal ticket to every lunacy they believe. It is all about the end; never about the means. This is power and money. Moral quibbling is just some cocktail hour trash talk.

And what, if by some miracle, Trump did get impeached? This would be the country’s worst nightmare.


Pence Smacking Himself In The Nuts With Lincoln’s Bible

Here is what happens if Trump was removed from office: We would get Mike Pence. Mike Pence. Mike Pence is such a nut case that he makes Donald Trump look like fucking George Washington. Pence boasts that the only thing that matters in his life is his belief in Jesus Christ. That’s it. The rest is just in the way. So what kind of things come from that belief? Well sexism and a misogyny so intense he can’t even meet with a woman alone. Women cause evil thoughts beyond his control. Gays are ghastly. Woman’s bodies are to cook babies in. If you are not an evangelical bible thumper, your only worth is conversion fodder – otherwise you are the damned, a cesspool of iniquity and a danger to earth (in this he shares a common thread with Islamic State theologians). All that stuff the Ryan wants to do? Well that is just super with Mike Pence. Climate change – ain’t even in the Bible. Evolution – made up by the heathen. Some crazy stuff a cracker from Alabama thinks would be good for America – its good with Mike as long the cracker goes to the right church.

So to get a better deal than Trump, you have to take out Mike Pence too. But then you’d get Paul Ryan. He is fouler than the first two guys. And down the line you go. Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry, Ben Carson? These are not just complete idiots – they are people whose political life has been dedicated to enriching themselves, promoting racism and disenfranchising anyone who is not part of their little club. For all you blue collar white guys who think you’re in the club already, SURPRISE – you’re not: you are too poor, too stupid, too addled to be their friends.

There is no easy route here. America voted Trump into the presidency and the only way to get the fucker out is to wait until 2020. But in the meantime, we can take back congress in next year’s election. We can start chipping away at the state legislatures to get positioned for 2020’s House redistricting. We can start supporting the next generation of this nation’s leaders. This is hard work. But, unless daddy gave you 100 million dollars, hard work is how you win.


 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Resurrection

Flashback to 1964. I was a fifteen year old know it all living in a suburb of the world’s largest steel town – Youngstown, Ohio. My dad did shift work at the mill as a plumber. It didn’t pay the bills so he also was the janitor at our church. He still had to scramble to make ends meet each month but we lived cheap and as he and my mom believe – god provides.


The Old North (Baptist) Church – Circa 1968

Our family – two brothers , two sisters, mums and dad – were members of the Old North (Baptist) Church. I’ll explain the parenthetical denomination tag in a moment. Old North was an old church. It was founded by 30 parishioners in 1936. When we attended, the church had about 200 members but it was a pretty good Sunday anytime you got more than 90 people at theWorship service. The church kept a scoreboard on the wall next to the altar. The first row of numbers showed total overall members, two rows below that showed many folks were at last week’s Sunday School and last week’s Worship services; the last two rows showed the same things for this week’s service. Deacons must have kept score on who came and went. I never thought about it. We always came for all the services so who cared?

Worship service attendance was the number that counted – that’s when they took the offering. Besides being the church janitor, dad was also a deacon and was privy to how the church made and spent its money. It was fairly simple. 90% of what the church took in came in through the Worship service’s collection plate (the other 10% came through the collection plates on Sunday and Wednesday evenings.). 70% of the money went to the Reverend Garland Brand’s salary. The rest covered mortgages on the church and parsonage buildings and utilities. That was pretty much it.

The Baptists believe that the word of god was the bible and that the bible meant exactly what god said in it. Exactly. So when John (the John The Baptist John) baptized Jesus, he dunked him in the River Jordan. He didn’t sprinkle his head – he lowered Jesus’s whole body underwater, said some mumbo jumbo while Jesus held his breath, then raised him back for some air. It was a bomb. All four evangelists copyrighted it right there.

So Baptists believe in baptism by immersion. Some still go down to a nearby river for the ceremony but most were like out church. They installed a bathtub type thing in the back of the church and filled it on those special days.


The Modal 9533 Baptistry – $1500 + $595 delivery

The Old North (Baptist) Church had its big bath tub in back of the sanctuary. It was a heavy metal box ten foot long, four feet wide and deep enough to cover Reverend Brand’s fairly large belly. Baptism services were relatively rare but when they did occur, they took place during the Sunday Evening service. Sunday’s were merciless days of church going and prayer. Usually when the Sunday Evening service rolled around, my brothers and sisters were pretty cranky. We were missing both the Walt Disney Show (with the real Walt Disney) and Ed Sullivan. We typically tried to make some deal with the mums around extra bible reading or other such thing to get out of going. Except for baptism Sundays – those services usually turned out better than even Wayne and Shuster on the Sullivan show.

Pastor Brand was a roly poly man his early fifties and not particularly strong. His biggest source of exercise was mostly thumbing through the Good Book or books about the Good Book. [As a teenager, I couldn’t even imagine the Reverend fucking dowdy Mrs. Brand but I supposed he got a workout doing that on occasion.] So baptisms were a physical challenge for Reverend Brand – he was the lever that moved the baptisee from standing position to horizontal beneath the water’s surface, doing the mumbo jumbo thing, then returning them upright again. In this performance, the Pastor often failed.

We are in early November 1964. The church had a baptism Sunday the week before Thanksgiving. There were two candidates for the evening. One was a fourteen year old girl named Corrie Woodlock. Corrie was had been ‘saved’ in October at Garland’s Jesus Is Coming annual preaching marathon that he did every late Fall to expand the flock for the Christmas season and its coincidental fund drive. The other baptisee was Myron Cox.

Myron Cox was the senior deacon of the church. It was not liked he wasn’t ‘saved’ or hadn’t been baptized before. He had been saved, as he frequently testified during the testimony segment of the Sunday Evening service, more than twenty years ago. He had been baptized before too – in fact he had been baptized six times before. This week’s would be his lucky seven.

Baptist dogma calls for a person to be baptized only once (sprinkling and baptisms of children under thirteen didn’t count). There was not hard and fast rule against multiple baptisms but generally it was avoided unless a person had a serious and long duration break from Jesus and the church. Myron Cox never could have fit in this category. Since his conversion to Christ as a young furnace bricklayer at US Steel in 1937, he had been a faithful servant of the Lord. At least in the eyes of everyone except Myron Cox. Myron believed his life was relentlessly full of sin. Each day he sinned against jesus Christ and back slid on his covenant with god. Each night, he lay prostrate bore the lord begging forgiveness and though he knew the Lord forgave his wretched life each day but still he continued to sin. Terrible sins. Envy. Anger. Distrust. Even Lust. A lot of lust.

Eventually Myron broke down under his sins and came to Pastor Brand crying for more forgiveness, begging for some new penitence and searching for a way to rededicate himself to god and the holy spirit. At some point, Brand would suggest another baptism. And that was when Myron would start gathering himself together, let the tears dry from his eyes and give thanks to his merciful god(??).

This was not an easy path for Reverend Brand to take. Four times before, Brand had baptized Myron Cox and in each of the four times, he had dropped him in the water. The last time – three years ago, he not only dropped Myron but split the back of pants an event unnoticed by him and the congregation until he turned his back to the crowd has he helped Myron up the steps from the baptistery and felt the church’s air-conditioned air wafting between his butt crack and scrotum. At the same time, he heard the congregation’s collective gasp and immediately realized his naked ass and privates were displayed to all. A fat man’s butt cheeks and shriveled balls were not a pleasant sight for the children to see.

Brand wore underwear at baptisms after that. But still it was only with great reluctance that he offered Myron the seventh baptism. A reluctance only overcome by the exhaustion of listening to Myron’s plaintive sobs for five hours and his fear of the rising ire of Mrs. Brand for the Reverend’s cow toeing to a sixty year old man-child and her suspicion that Garland was using the ‘Myron Excuse’ to once again avoid dinner with her sister Eunice.

So the date was set for November 17, 1964. The evening service was well attended – even better than Christmas. Members of long standing in the church remembered Myron’s four earlier baptisms with fondness bordering on glee. Everyone remembered the pastor’s embarrassing rear end – we kids incessantly cracked jokes about it no matter the amount of shushing from the parents.


The Reverend Garland Brand

Reverend Brand, of course, was the person most nervous that evening. Garland Brand had a beautiful baritone voice and loved to sing at any services. That night, he skipped the singing. His voice was wobbling and unsteady in the opening prayer. It didn’t improve as the service progressed.

The theme of the sermon was, of course, the meaning of baptism. Most of Brand’s sermons were long endurance exercises. A regular penitence for the faithful. But not tonight. He mostly read scripture; gave a listless ramble around its symbolism and wrapped up with a short prayer.

The choir sang all three verses of There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood while Reverend Brand, little Corrie Woodlock and hunky Myron Brand went back behind the sanctuary to get ready to step into the baptistery.

As the choir finished its last verse, Brand entered the baptistry. He said a prayer. No one listened. Corrie Woodlock was first and he beckoned her down the steps. Corrie stood on his left as Brand asked if she accepted the Lord Jesus Christ in her heart and as her savior. Corrie affirmed and Brand pushed her lightly on her chest with his right hand and lowered her down with his left. Down she went to ‘Buried in the sins of the earth’ Five second pause, then ‘Raised by the blood of Christ’ and up she came.

Brand murmured a few words in Corrie’s ear, they both smiled and he led her back up the stairs. The choir sang the first verse of There Is A Fountain again. When they finished, there was only the sound of heavy footsteps splashing down the stairs as Myron Cox came into the baptistery.

Myron was not basketball tall but he was taller than Garland Band. He towered over Reverend Brand as he moved into place. Brand asked Myron if he was ready to renewed his life in Christ and serve the lord. Myron looked at the pastor and replied hoarsely that he did. Brand’s left arm wrapped itself around Myron’s back; his right pushed on his chest. Brand started the ‘Buried in the sins….’ and pushed Myron back. Myron fell backwards suddenly and deeply into the pool. Water splashed up the wall, over Reverend Brand and out onto the alter. Myron seized Brand’s hand that was on his chest as he was going down, pulling the preacher down into the water with him. As they both floundered about trying to regain their footing, water flew everywhere. They were probably only submerged for a second or two but it seemed much longer as water flew, limbs pounded against the metal box and both men gurgled for air.

There was silence as they finally stood upright out of the water. Brand recovered quickly putting both of his hands on Myron’s head and saying the finishing ‘Raised by the blood of Jesus Christ’ to which he added an exhausted amen.

To me, this was as good as a church service could get. We joked and laughed about in youth group for the next six months. The adults, however, didn’t say much. On the way home, my dad observed to my mother how it ruined the night for little Corrie Woodlock. He put the blame on Myron – the man had already been baptized six times. The ninny needed to buck up and behave like a man.

Three years later, Garland Brand moved on to another church. By then I was in my senior year of high school and I had quit going to the church at all. But I had developed a little admiration for the pastor. He did what he had to do in the face of certain failure. I wondered if he ever thought that god had let him down. He preached how faith could move mountains, heal the sick, and bring peace to the tormented. But neither faith or Jesus or any of the other rigmarole helped him baptize the blubbery Myron Cox.

N.B. – No, I didn’t forget I promised to explain the (Baptist) in the Old North (Baptist) Church’s name. It just that it is another story. You’ll see.

 

 

Posted in Lifestyle | Leave a comment