Excerpt for Before Banana Patch by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Before Banana Patch


Michael David

Copyright (C) July 1999 / 2017 by Michael David (Johnson)

All Rights Reserved

Including, but not limited to,

all rights to the Banana Patch Name, et al.

Cover art © Can Stock Photo / samsonovs

SmashWords Edition

* * * *


The following novel contains

adult language and sexual content.

Some of the language, ideas and attitudes

expressed in the following pages

may be hazardous to your mental well-being

and may challenge your system of values.

If that should happen, remember:

Sometimes life, language, ideas and attitudes

can be a veritable irritation when they

conflict with and do not conform to....

your own.

Om, Peace, Amen

* * * *

Table of Contents


Walla Walla Blues

My Religious Regurgitation

Short People

No Satisfaction

Adam Holloway

Dead Head

Wisdom of the East

Give Me That Old Time Religion


Praise the Lord & Pass the Ammunition

Winning & Losing: Success & Failure

Issues of the Heart?

Legalization: Just Do It

Frat Rats

Timothy Leary’s Dead

Death Coming Out of the Closet

When the Roll is called up Yonder

WSU: Party Down

Power to the People

Ralph Jackson

Rastus, Liza & Racism

The Grape Boycott

Guns Don’t Kill People?

Up in Smoke

The Big Johnson

Maggie & Nicole

Instant Karma

Ram Dass

Seven Chakras

The Book

A Birthday Party

The Darshan

The Prayer

Questions Unanswered

Permissions & Acknowledgements

Partial Introductory Bibliography

About the Author

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* * * *


Average Makes Me Sick.”

Pat Summitt, Head Coach of the “Lady Vols,”

University of Tennessee

* * * *

The following story is fiction, though it is true

that it is based on a true story....

And though nearly all of the places

in this story are real, they are, nonetheless,

placed in a fictional story line.

Therefore, the characters, incidents, and dialogues

are products of the author’s imagination and

are not to be construed as real.

Any resemblance, to actual events, or persons,

living or dead, is coincidental.

The real and deeper challenge may be to discover

in one’s own life

what is truth and what is fiction,

what is real and what is not....

* * * *

Competition, and our jingoistic attachment

to winning and success,

has brought out, from within most of us,

the very best and the very worst –

not lacking in human sacrifice and cost....

Our current model of success

is responsible for much of the pain and suffering

we experience in the world....

Until this model is redefined

and replaced by one that is far more

compassionate and inclusive,

I dedicate this book

to the poor and disenfranchised;

to the low-in-self-esteem,

to the failures and losers of this world,

to which I am humbly honored

to cast my lot....

For without us,

there is no honest standard

by which to measure

winning and success....

Michael David

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* * * *


One day at work, a group of my staff and I were informally talking about where we were and what we were doing during those “tumultuous” years in the 1960’s. As I recall, the four of us, who were close in age (Baby Boomers, I guess you’d say), began our stories, each one interesting and each one bringing out from within us the emotions we felt back then concerning the Vietnam War, the draft and racism, and what was happening at the various universities we were all attending at the time.

Let me back up just a bit. Actually, the inspiration for this entire discussion was initiated by one in the group who said to me: “I don’t care what any of our clients say, I like your long hair.”

At the time, I had decided to grow my hair out the way I had it back in the late 60’s; not because I was trying to make any political, moral or fashion statement, but simply because I liked long hair and wanted to see, thirty-something years later, if I still had it in me; if I had enough hair to even grow.

As of the time of this writing, I was the Executive Director of a non-profit agency serving the needs of others, and a vast majority of those whom we served accepted, without question, my growing hair. In fact, most of our client-friends had endured an ocean and depth of experience and maturity well beyond my years.

They had witnessed, in the longevity of their years, human loss, pain and suffering far greater than most people in our society, so much so that somehow my long hair seemed rather inconsequential. Still, there were a handful of “squeaky wheels” who made it quite clear to me that, to them “it was totally inappropriate for male executive directors to have long hair.”

One elderly man said he was quoting from the Bible when he assured me that “long hair on a man was an abomination to the Lord.” One of my board members informed me that he had no other alternative than to “go and speak to the rest of the board members about this very vital matter.”

And though my hair was kept clean, combed and away from my face; and though I continued to conduct myself in a most professional, serious and stoic manner, still, some objected. I harbor no ill will to those “conscientious objectors” who found my hair an offense.

Sometimes it seems that we become more obsessed with outer appearances of others rather than minding our own business, which tends to inhibit us from reaching deeper into the real person within. Oh, well... hasn’t that always been one of our ongoing challenges? Guess I have a lot of work to do on myself.

Back to our informal discussion during our break. So when it came to my turn to talk about what I was doing in the late ‘60’s, I talked about the time I dropped out of WSU, sold everything I had, and bought a one-way ticket to the island of Maui, ending up in a commune called Banana Patch.

I talked about some of my experiences and what I considered to be metaphysical encounters I had braved while living on Maui, when one of our program directors piped up and said, “Why don’t you write a book and call it Banana Patch?”

By the way, I did finally cut my hair which had fruitfully grown down past the middle of my back. But, it was the manner in which I had it cut that still tickles me to no end. I think I was able to make something positive happen out of feeling really negative about “having to cut my hair” in the first place.

What I did was sell raffle tickets, especially to those who were “overly enthusiastic” in seeing my head shaved, and the winner got to cut it off. Of course, the proceeds went to my agency. I then took the 22-inch ponytail and sent it to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization who used my hair to help make wigs for children suffering with leukemia.

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* * * *

Walla Walla Blues

I wasn’t always confused, angry and frustrated about who I was and where I was going. Life used to be relatively simple and straightforward. There was a time, earlier on in my life, when everything was crystal clear, on the mark, without question – without exception.

When I think about all of this – about college, my confusion and my journey to Banana Patch – I can’t help but reflect upon the town and circumstances in which I grew up. I was born and raised Michael Jay; brought into this world in the year of our Lord, 1949, conceived, weaned and nurtured in a small, ultra-conservative farming community in the corner of Southeastern Washington called Walla Walla.

Folklore had it that Walla Walla was the town they liked so much, they named it twice. Actually, it was a name taken from the Walawla Indians, meaning little rivers or place of many waters. I’m not really sure why our town was named the way it was: other than a couple of small rivers in the area, and a flood now and then, there really wasn’t very much water.

From a weather perspective, Walla Walla was referred to by many (who came up with this I’ll never know) as the banana belt” of the Northwest. Such a reference was rooted in the notion that when winds and storms hit the Pacific Northwest, somehow all of it miraculously and cosmically bypassed Walla Walla.

When other parts of the state experienced the bitter cold, Walla Walla was apparently balmy and warm – hence the name “banana belt.” Horse Hockey. In a pig’s eye. But we were, however, surrounded by the Blue Mountains, a small mountainous chain of ecological, recreational and aesthetic value to most Walla Wallans. My God, how I loved the Blue Mountains.

Sure, Walla Walla had her winters that were warmer than others, just as some days seem to be better than other days. And the winters in Walla Walla were not nearly as cold as say, Rapid City, South Dakota, my father’s birth place, or say Antarctica. But a Banana Belt. I don’t think so.

Banana Patch, which would come to symbolize the beginning of the journey of my awakening, was more like a banana belt.” Walla Walla was not. It was an alright town, mind you, but so were a lot of other towns. That’s at least what I used to think.

Take any place; it really doesn’t matter where. Is any place better than any other place? Maybe on the surface. Maybe not. It all depends on how you look at it, doesn’t it? Isn’t it the attitude and consciousness you bring to it, all within the beholder’s eye, the mind of the perceiver? Ho Hum.

Needless to say, when you’re a kid on the path of maturity, growing into a young adult and spending all those years in a town called Walla Walla, the thought of becoming a lifer, without the possibility of parole, was infinitely staggering.

By the time I graduated from high school, I –along with an entire class of high school seniors – was not ready to become a lifer. Many of us probably would have sold our souls” (had we known the meaning of the term) – sold anything, just to escape.

In any event, Walla Walla was essentially a good town: lots of churches, fine schools, good people, three colleges, one of which, I heard, was the pride and joy of the Pacific Northwest-Whitman College. Oh yes, Walla Walla was also the home of Washington State Penitentiary.

Rumor had it Walla Walla had the option of either having Washington State University or the State Penitentiary within her borders. Apparently, the city fathers and local power brokers, in their wisdom, chose the latter. Both are prisons of varying degrees.

Walla Walla prided herself in being rich in history, as well as rich in monetary affluence. There was a time in our nation’s history when Walla Walla was the wealthiest community-per- dollar per-capita, more so than any other town or city in America. Big deal, she also had some of the poorest people living within her city limits.

A common tongue-and-cheek comment that was often articulated among those of us with far less monetary resources who found ourselves living on the other side of the tracks was: They’re richer than God.

Yes, even back then, Walla Walla had its fair share (and then some) of the rich and shameless, whose money bought them power, or at least a sense of it. We used to think there were a lot of King shits in this small country town, a lot of horses, and a lot of horses’ asses. But I guess every community must have a few, if for no other reason than to provide a balance.

And I suppose that if one was a newcomer to this fine area, or was just passing through, one would be impressed (like being smacked between the eyes with a two-by-four) of the disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

On the outskirts of the Walla Walla valley, you had two hills: Penitentiary Hill and Country Club Hill. And in between was a menagerie of rich and poor, good and bad, and that which lay somewhere in the midst of both.

History had it that a missionary by the name of Marcus Whitman, along with his wife Narcissa, came out West in the 1830’s as a Christian soldier, on a mission from God to Christianize and tame the savage beast within the Native Americans, who held a natural deed to this land.

The Whitmans, under what I call the auspices of Christian squatters’ rights, settled upon the land which was the home of the Cayuse Native Americans, (apparently God had given Marcus permission to do so), and in their zeal to Christianize the Heathen Cayuse,” Marcus Whitman, et al, ended up giving to the Cayuse a lot more than Christianity. Immigrants and settlers coming to the Whitman mission brought with them the measles, which ended up killing off many of the Native Americans, who in turn (and who could blame them) killed Marcus Whitman and company.

As it turned out, this omnipotent Christian God, as taught by Marcus to the Cayuse, apparently not only could not cure the disease of measles, He couldn’t raise them from the dead after they died from it, like Jesus raised up ole Lazarus.

All the Cayuse could do is hopelessly and helplessly watch their women and children suffer and die, as Whitman and his God stood around giving what medical and spiritual advice and aid they could.

Ironically, many years later, a bronze statue of Marcus Whitman was erected and stood in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the statue returned home and stood proudly in Walla Walla. I guess folks around these parts looked upon Marcus Whitman as some sort of a religious folk hero. Hell, they even named a college after him. What a crock.

No statue was ever erected in Walla Walla in honor of those Native Americans we displaced and drove away from their heartland in the Walla Walla valley, a land to which they held natural ownership by virtue of their being here first. And whenever I bring it up, nobody wants to talk about it.

Struck by a sudden attack of collective conscience for our multitude of transgressions (a small token of our appreciation to the Native Americans, mind you), throughout Washington state, we named many of our cities and towns after Native American tribes and their tribal chiefs – but only after we exterminated most of them first. What a trade-off. Seems fair, right?

Walla Walla became a shining example of this conscience- clearing warehouse of Native American nomenclature. Still, I challenge anyone to find a single Walla Walla or Cayuse Native American in Walla Walla today.

I often found it curious and ironic that when we white folks killed a bunch of Native Americans in battle, it was a “victory” for the Calvary and for America. When the Indians kicked ass and won a battle or two, is was called a massacre. (Oh well...some things never change.)

When I often reflected upon this whole Native American/ White-man thing (and my country’s abominable “manifest destiny” policy), it would make me personally embarrassed and ashamed to be white or Caucasian or whatever you call it. I came to look upon Marcus Whitman as a poor misguided ole’ soul, lost in the sea of spiritual ignorance.... Guess he’s in good company, huh?

When I think of Walla Walla, I am often reminded of those good times in my early teens, as I was preparing to enter the 8th grade, my parents took me and my brothers in their old ‘47 Ford to a really neat place, called Wallowa Lake – oh, I’d say about 120 miles southwest of Walla Walla, in Oregon country.

This beautiful, pristine, spacious, mountainous wilderness area and lake was often referred to as the “little Switzerland” of America, and it wasn’t just the locals who gave it this name. I only tell you all of this because the Wallowa wilderness fathered a very great Native American chief in the middle 1800’s.

Dad rented us this cabin on the lake, while he worked in the area as a salesman so he could pay the mortgage on the house back home, feed and clothe all of us – oh, and pay for another night’s lodging -if he had a good day selling.

This particular day, as I was looking around inside the cabin, I found this piece of writing on the wall in one of the rooms. I was so touched by it that I wrote it down myself and carried it with me for a number of years. And when I found myself reflecting upon Walla Walla, Marcus Whitman, the Native Americans and all of it, I would be reminded of those words that I found in that cabin, of that Great Native American Chief, Chief Joseph, chief of the Nez Pierce, when he said:

If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers.

The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man who was born free should be contented to be penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases. If you tie a horse to a stake, do you expect he will grow fat?

If you pen an Indian up on a small spot of earth and compel him to stay there, he will not be contented nor will he grow and prosper... Let me be a free man – free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade, where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself – and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty.

I guess the Native Americans had their own sense of deep religiosity, which we assumed had no redeeming value to us or them. How mistaken and misguided we had become. America was so caught up in her own intolerant, religious self- righteousness, that she could not go beyond the boundaries of her own prejudice, beyond the boundaries and personality of Christianity, to that place within all of us where we were truly one. Ho-hum.

Another thing happened that particular summer before my 8th grade at Wallowa Lake. I had been thinking about running for vice-president of my junior high school and I needed a speech. I told my Dad about my intentions and how I thought I had a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning (I was never allowed to say the word Hell in front of my parents, but Hades was okay).

Dad, in his usual, positive, encouraging manner, said “Son, if you want it, you can have it.”

But Dad,” I exclaimed, “I’ve never written a speech before, let alone gave it in front of 700 students, will you help me?”

Dad wrote me a speech that weekend which was short and to the point, that got your attention right at the beginning, and kept your attention right to the very end.

In fact, it was the first time that I came to realize how good my Dad really was at speech making and communicating. And the fact that he took the time to write my speech and give me encouragement only solidified my love and respect for him.

So, I memorized it. Scared shitless, I spoke it before the student body, got a standing ovation, and won the election. As time moved forward, I would hold many more student body offices throughout my junior high and high school years, along with being involved in a variety of legitimate, extracurricular school activities.

I only tell you this story because this experience was the beginning of my feeling more comfortable about myself and in speaking in front of others. I felt like I was beginning to fit in. Thanks, Dad.

A couple of other small items about Walla Walla: Someone told me that during World War 2, Walla Walla made the cover of Life or Look magazine when the magazine did a story about the houses of ill-repute” that lined both sides of lower main street.

Apparently, the houses were legal then. Taxed and regulated, they brought to the city coffers quite a lot of money, along with sexual favors for the city fathers.

But as time went on, there was a disagreement by the local committee of Moral Indignation about supporting these particular businesses in town, and eventually the city fathers found a way to substitute the loss of revenue from adult entertainment services – with other forms of taxation.

Walla Walla was a microcosm of America. It was the best of towns, it was the worst of towns. Walla Wallans bragged boastfully of having their internationally famous Walla Walla Sweet Onions. And yes, there was the annual Walla Walla Hot Air Balloon Stampede. A lot of really neat beautiful balloons and a lot of hot air.

What Walla Walla didn’t tout was the fact that some of the most brutal, hideous crimes ever committed had occurred right here in “Wally world,” an enigmatic term of endearment to which many homies referred to the name of their little city.

It was often difficult, for those of us who felt that Walla Walla was God’s response to the almost perfect town, to reconcile that sacred belief in the face of Walla Walla’s darker side.

I could tell you specific stories of violence, of child, espousal and elder abuse; of rape and sexual abuse; of fights, shootings and gangs wars; of drinking and driving accidents, of untimely and brutal deaths; of suicides; of children killing one another; of children murdering their parents and vice versa; of neighbors, friends and loved ones swept away by cancer, Alzheimer’s and a variety of terminal illnesses, but I won’t.

I would not want to inflict additional pain on those whose suffering is deep and endless. Nor do I wish to rub salt into the wounds of those family members, friends and loved ones of the victims (or anyone else, for that matter) who endured loss and pain, far more than one should bear in a hundred lifetimes.

In reality, we’re all the victims here, including the perpetrators of these apparent, inconceivable, incredulous, unmistakable acts of violence. But for those survivors and loved ones who are intimately involved with these acts of aggression, what answers can be given that would satisfy and mend our broken hearts? Will the passage of time do it? I don’t think so.

So many victims’ families say they would like to confront their sons’ and daughters’ perpetrators and ask them why? Fact is, if there really is an answer to remotely justify such acts, it is of little comfort and it will never suffice, at least on this plane of reality.

Another thing about Walla Walla which I never really understood: she had an inordinate amount of rather conservative, die-hard, staunch Republicans; and rich ones too. In Walla Walla, there were three absolutes: death, taxes and Republicans. I firmly believe that if the question was ever posed: If you had the choice between not being a Republican and death, which would you chose?” that most Republicans would have chosen the latter.

These mean-spirited curmudgeons, these demagogues of deception and darkness, these power brokers of local economic development controlled the city and its businesses; who would be allowed to operate and who would not. You might think by my description of the Republican power base that I was giving them way too much credit. Not so.

They pretty much controlled the town’s money, along with what would be taught in the schools, who and what would be preached in the pulpits and who would be elected to political office and who would not. They controlled the press-shit – the whole damn thing. And the thing is, not much has really changed in the past five decades.

In my adult years, I often wished that I had money, lots of it, but not for the purposes for which you might be thinking. I would wish for enough money to buy a few acres in the heart of the country club, and then erect a rather large and ostentatious, low-income, minority housing complex.

I would do this for two reasons: One, low income minority housing was always needed in Walla Walla. And two, I would do it just to watch those rich, white Republicans kick, scream and squirm, just to see the look on their bigoted faces.

You see, as long as minority, low-income people lived on the other side of town (in their proper place, mind you), and not in the neck of the country club woods – they’re not prejudice or bigoted, right? Equal opportunity neighbors. My Ass. But what if they were really forced to become neighbors? What then?

One thing’s 99.99% certain: it would never happen even if I had enough money to try and pull it off. But it would do my heart good just to watch those equal opportunity aristocratic hypocrites spend millions of dollars on attorney fees to keep that project and those people” out of their neighborhood.

Still, just because Walla Walla suffered from a mild to an acute case of “redneckicity,” she was still my home town, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, (probably until death do we part), and I loved her in spite of everything else.

I knew in my heart of hearts that when one took the good with the bad, the happy with the sad, the wealthy and the impoverished – all of it – the greatest asset of our town.... were the good people who lived there.

My parents came to Wally World in 1947. I had a good family life growing up there with two parents who stayed married and committed to one another, even through those teenage years when my brothers and I gave our parents the most heartburn.

I was eternally grateful that I had brothers to share the pleasures and pains of growing up together. Since I was the eldest, there was a lot of pressure on me to set a good example, and I did just that, at least while my parents were watching.

But when they were gone, I threw off my halo like one tossing a Frisbee, and the horns of mischief would crop up and replace my self-proclaimed angelic aura. I became a fallen angel, and as such I would tease the hell out of my brothers. Looking back on it now, my teasing was probably just a perverted way of saying “I love you all,” but I doubt my brothers saw it that way. How do you ask one to excuse the inexcusable?

More than likely, my taunting and teasing was a result of the frustration I experienced outside the home, the frustration of being the eldest son, the frustration inherent in growing up and taking the abuse that kids dish out to you at that age.

However, when you are the object of sibling harassment from the eldest brother, excuses and words like “I really did it out of love” or “the devil made me do it” have very little meaning.

And yet there was then, and is now, a love that transcended all our differences. That love was always innate, always present, and has only deepened with the passing of time.

And my parents? There’s no doubt in my mind that Mom and Dad secured their place in heaven at the right hand of God, if for no other reason than the fact that they endured the trauma of raising, feeding and clothing four hungry boys – especially when we became teenagers. “Raising teenagers is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree,” someone once said, and I agree. And I want to thank my parents for enduring the onslaught of the teasing I heaped upon my brothers and for tolerating my “emotional up-chucks.”

Growing up, I really had very little formal religious training. Both of my parents were “renegade” Christians whose teachings had been rooted in a denomination who rigidly chose Saturday as the day for worshiping God. Anything less was heresy.

I call my parents renegades when it came to the practice of their religion since they didn’t always see eye-to-eye with their church’s do’s and don’ts. For example, they had an occasion to eat meat; their church, for the most part, forbade it.

My parents didn’t always go to church consistently, and were a little loose when it came to the strict observance of sundown. But if you even dared to challenge the denomination of their choice, Lord have mercy. Big mistake.

Some of my parents’ religiosity spilled over into me, up until I reached the age of reason, oh... in about the eighth grade. I discovered their choice of religion was not my choice: it was too confining and suffocating in its beliefs.

Yet I sensed that somewhere along the way, in their spiritual journey, there was this pure loving spirit that had touched their hearts as a result of their exposure to this particular denomination.

They had been touched by the essence of it all, and when I was around them, I could feel this essence when they spoke of it in the stories about how their faith had made a difference in their lives. I just couldn’t digest the non-essential garbage that had nothing whatsoever to do with God, but had everything to do with their religion in practice.

And though my parents encouraged all of us to make up our own minds and to follow our own hearts, sometimes differences of opinion, among all of us, were taken personally. Although my parents had to tolerate raising me and my brothers, they did not tolerate and accept very well our different points of view, especially when it conflicted with their own. And you never questioned or challenged their Seventh Day Adventist beliefs. But, as parents, I am told they were in good company.

Looking back on it now, whenever there was a difference of opinion between me and my parents, or my brothers and my parents, my parents always put out the fires of our disagreements and verbal challenges with the waters of dousing the fire before it really had a chance to get started in the first place. “Healthy disagreement” and debate never existed in our home.

It was sort of like, if a seed of difference began to germinate, Dad and Mom would end its life before it had a chance to take root and grow. My parents had a difficult time accepting others for who they were.

If you didn’t agree with their point of view, their lifestyle, they didn’t want to discuss the matter. Oh well, we got over it. I love my parents for teaching us to be the caretakers of our own thoughts, words, actions and lives, so long as we did it after we got out of the house, on our own...if you know what I mean.

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* * * *

My Religious Regurgitation....

I find it somewhat difficult to talk of my religious upbringing without being emotionally attached, without becoming... angry. My problem was never with God, with Christ. My problem was with Christianity. My problem was to be found in those who defined God for me, for us; who interpreted God’s Will (for the sake of “we”, the uninformed masses) and then superimposed that interpretation upon us as though it were the “gospel truth.”

There came a time in my religious nurturing when I would have taken Christ in the classroom, Christ in the Church, Christ anywhere and anytime, but not Christianity. Christianity had become just another power struggle for religious one-up-man-ship; one denomination after another attempting to “one-up” the other.

All of this religious posturing was based, of course, on the Bible – all of it “etched in stone from time immemorial,” each denomination guarding their sacred idolatries and mendacious beliefs with a “killer’s eye.” How convenient. If one held a different point of view from these religious power brokers, one was, at the very least, verbally crucified for doing so.

Reason had taught me, at an early age, that “organized Christianity” had very little to do with Love, Truth, Peace, Harmony, Salvation, Forgiveness, and Tolerance for others. It had everything to do, however, with fear, retribution, superstition, ego, power, control and... money. The real truth was to be found in the practice of their Golden Rule, that is: “those who had the gold, ruled.”

It was the intolerance, the close-mindedness, the hypocrisy, the double-standards, the intimidation associated with my religious training which made me want to puke when I thought of it; which made it difficult for me to demonstrate a rational sense of objectivity when I talked about it.

I had given witness to enough dogmatic, angry-audible, fire and brimstone preaching, arm-waving, Bible-thumping evangelists in my early youth to last any young man several lifetimes. So if I sound a little pissed off, preachy and in your face about my religious insurrection... so be it.

Before my father had changed careers to become a salesman, he had bought a dry-cleaning business in the heart of College Place, Washington, the “cradle” of the Adventist faith, the “bedroom” of my parents’ religiosity. Among the many practices (held by the only religion to which I had been exposed) that I came to find bitterly unpalatable was the issue and practice of Sabbath.

It came to make absolutely no sense to me to put aside only one day for God (no matter what day you put aside for worship), and then lay claim that if you failed to honor that day, you would never enter the Gates of Eden, that you were doomed to burn in hell forever. Isn’t that a wonderful and comforting thought perpetuated by the church?

It wasn’t until my early years in high school that I used to think to myself: “pity and woe to all those poor, misguided, spiritual bastards who had chosen another day to fellowship, for theirs was the kingdom of hell.” At least that was the theology of this particular denomination. Let me tell more about it in a couple stories I remember from my past.

Soon after my father became the owner of the College Place Dry Cleaners, my parents befriended a pillar of the Adventist Church and Walla Walla College Community, Dr. Timothy Killinger and his family. Dr. Killinger was an Associate Professor of Theology, a very popular one at that, with a reputation of being a rather serious, stern and devout Adventist, at least that was the common perception.

The Killinger family lived in the affluent part of College Place, Washington (naturally) and they had a son my age, Bobby. We were often invited to join them for dinner or for just an afternoon of polite conversation as Bobby and I would play as kids do. I liked it when we went to their house since Bobby had scores of new toys with which to play, a symbol of his family’s affluence.

One of the things Bobby and I would do on occasion was to hide around the corner, just off their living room, and eavesdrop on some of their conversations. We didn’t always understand what they were saying, but still we had fun. One thing’s for sure: my eavesdropping taught me a lot about some of the religious attitudes and practices of this denomination.

Bobby once told me he heard his dad talking to another Professor one day telling him that: “Even though many Adventists don’t observe sundown the way they should, it’s still nice to get off early from work on Friday afternoons so we can all enjoy a three-day weekend. So far as I know, no other religion enjoys this kind of 3-day luxury,” Professor Killinger was often heard saying to those whom he trusted wouldn’t tell the other powers that be in his Church. Funny thing was, the powers that be seemed to cow-tow to this horse’s ass.

So one day we’re listening to a conversation going on between my parents and Bobby’s:

“Lloyd,” Dr. Killinger asked my Dad. “Do you tithe?”

“No, never really heard about it. We’re not that familiar with all of the teachings of the church yet. When we moved here from South Dakota, we had only gone to the Adventist Church maybe three of four times. What is tithing?”

“It’s one of the big things of the Adventist Church. If you’re going to be a member, you’ve got to tithe, that’s all there is to it, Dr. Killinger said as if he were an authority.

“Tithing is when you give 10% of your income to the church,” Dr. Killinger went on. “But the really great thing about tithing your 10 % is that you will receive far more than the 10% you give.” Then he got out his Bible and went to a scripture somewhere and read it to my parents.

“Isn’t that great, Lloyd?” Dr. Killinger continued. “We have the promise of the Bible that if we give our 10% we will receive back many-fold what we gave in the first place. Good, faithful Adventists know this to be true. If you want to do business here in our community and become part of us, tithing to the church is a must.”

I was getting into this conversation so deeply that I forgot I was eavesdropping. I went into the living room and belted out, “But Dad, I thought you have always taught me it is ‘better to give than to receive;’ that when we give to others we should ‘do so without expecting anything in return.’”

“Michael,” my mother said angrily, “You go play with Bobby. It’s not polite to listen in on other people conversations.”

“But, Mom, that is what you’ve always taught me.”

“Do as I say and not as I do,” my father shot back. “You and Bobby go play right now or I’m going to spank you with the belt.” I got out of their faster than you could say ‘tithing.’

“It sounds like your son could use some discipline,” I heard Dr. Killinger telling my parents as I left the room. “You know what the Bible says: ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’ We Adventists believe strongly in that one.”

I later discovered that to ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ was simply the Church’s excuse and justification for promoting child abuse.

And that was the first time I remember running into that saying: “Do as I say and not as I do.” I would hear it over and over again, not just from my parents, but from so many of the church elders, even from my society, that eventually I saw clearly enough through this veil of hypocrisy to realize that it’s the deeds of people that really counts in this life, not the words.

So you might say ask, What’s the deal? You’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Lots of churches in our society believe in ‘Do as I say and not as I do.’ After all, ‘we’re only human.’ So there’s hypocrisy, so what? It’s part of what we do in this country. Don’t sinners and hypocrites have the right to go to church?

And I say, sure they do, just don’t be hypocritical about it.

But you say: You shouldn’t judge a religion on how its parishioners act.

And I say: How else can one judge the merits of a religion if not by the manner in which its parishioners treat one another in the church as well as how they treat those who lie outside the faith.

Yeah, I liked Bobby alright, but I couldn’t stand Dr. Killinger. I would hear him saying things like: “The only true day to Worship God is on Saturday. That’s why there’s the Adventist religion. ‘Many are called but few are chosen.’ We Adventists are the chosen ones; I feel sorry for all those ‘Sunday’ worshipers who chose another day. I’m afraid they’re going to burn in Hades just like the Bible says; They will never see the kingdom of Heaven.” Believe me, Dr. Killinger wasn’t the only person who held this belief.

My parents really seemed to have their heads-up Dr. Killinger’s ass for the longest time. That is, until the day Dad caught Dr. Killinger with his hands all over Mom, hitting on her in the back of the dry cleaners.

Dad had just come back from a home-delivery when he witnessed Mom struggling to get out of the clutches of Dr. Killinger’s advances. I was in the other room, but I heard the entire dramatic episode. From that day forward, Dad never did Dr. Killinger’s dry-cleaning again, nor did we pay him our usual weekly social visits.

It seemed clear to me, even back then, that every day was God’s day; in fact, every moment was God’s moment. That whether you were in school, on the job, at home, in church, cooking dinner, doing the dishes, going to the bathroom, listening to rock-and-roll, making love – whatever – why not dedicate it all to the Holy One?

To my way of thinking, a person did what one did, but the doing, and the fruits of one’s doing, ought to be, at the very least, dedicated to God – now and forever. Why not? I didn’t have a term for that thought back then, but now I guess I would call it consecrated action. I never understood why one’s work had to be a “curse,” something unholy. Because the Bible says it’s so? What a crock.

The religion to which I had been exposed went so far as to tell you what you could and could not do on that holy day which THAT church so self-righteously (and rigidly) set aside for worship. I found it curious that one could not pay their bills on the Sabbath (as if that were an unholy act), but could generously fill up the church coffers.

Those on the outside of this particular religious persuasion often referred to us as peanut-eaters, since an ostentatious and strict vegetarian diet was part and parcel of their religiosity. Fact of the matter was, I could usually spot the peanut-eaters a mile away.

Many of them looked gray-white in color, like death warmed over, and appeared to have a distinct look of “constipation” written upon their stoic-gray faces. I think if one were to approach one of these voracious vegetarians and ask them if they were sick, they’d probably reply: “No, I’m just an Adventist.”

Another thing that used to “fry my ass, chap my hide and frost my cupcakes” was the observance of sundown. You see, the Sabbath began on Friday night (according to a certain segment of our population in the area), every Friday night, at sundown, and lasted until sundown on Saturday. Sundown – what a travesty in practice.

Most of the time I found that those who subscribed to this particular religiosity used sundown as a means for getting off work early and getting a head start on what almost amounted to a three-day weekend, just like Dr. Killinger had once said. Usually the Adventist businesses closed down around noon on Fridays to get “prepared for sundown.”

Now, during daylight-savings time, mind you, you and I know the sun doesn’t actually set until 9 or 10 PM. Still, those businesses closed at high noon to prepare for sundown. And what’s that all about, preparing for sundown? If you’re in tune with God, what is that for which you have to prepare?

Truth is, they got off early for sundown not as a way to worship and truly honor God, but as a way to get more time off from cursed work. The people that I knew who observed this superstition didn’t use it for religious study. To them, it was time to play.

And many who held the belief that sundown and Saturday was “THE DAY” – the only day – that God said you will honor and worship Him – those who worshiped on Sunday or any other day just didn’t get any respect from these holiest of hollies. That’s right.... no respect.

These chosen few wanted you to honor their right to their religious day, but they did not have the same respect for someone else’s day of worship, or lack of it. Why? In their mind’s eye, it simply was the wrong day.

I found it to be true that this particular denomination believed that if you did not belong to them, you were against them. If you did not worship on their Sabbath, and on their terms, you simply would not and could not go to heaven.

They acted as though they owned the only title to the corner on religious truth, and that’s all there was to it. Any day other than Saturday would never do. And the voracity at which many observed this Sundown and Sabbath ritual was overwhelming to me.

It’s like they were all watching the clock making certain that they wouldn’t be late for sundown. If talk got around “the town” – meaning the clergy, church elders or members – that you were somehow late for sundown, or not quite observing it in the fashion and manner the church thought you should, man, you were in a shit-load of trouble.

You would either turn into a pumpkin, or an eternal condemned sinner, and burn in hell forever, or something satanically ominous like that. It’s kinda like getting on somebody’s case for praying with their eyes open, if you catch my drift.

I mean, I would hear people saying to the checkers on Friday evenings, “Could you please check a little faster, I have to be home before sundown.”

In fact, this happened to me. In high school, I began working at a local Safeway store when I was sixteen. At seventeen, I had learned how to check, and I didn’t do too shabby a job, either. In any event, on this particular Friday night all the check stands were busy; in fact it was so busy that people were lined up and down the aisles, and every check stand had a long line.

I was checking as fast and as conscientiously as I could, when all at once a customer behind the one I was checking out yelled in a disgruntled voice: “Could you please check a little faster, I have to be home before sundown.”

I replied that I was sorry, that I was doing the “best that I can, and to please be patient with me.”

“But I have to be home before sundown,” the voice blurted out. “And if I don’t, it’s a sin against God and my religion, could you please hurry up?”

Biting my tongue, I finally got this unhappy and impatient customer through my check stand and tried to be as polite as I could be under the circumstances. The customer glared at me throughout the entire transaction and when I said, “Thank you for shopping at Safeway,” she said, “Save your thank you for someone who cares, you have made me late.”

Within myself I was furious. After we had taken care of most of the customers, another checker came to relieve me for a break. And that’s when the devil got a hold of me. That’s when I could hold it back no more. That Adventist lady got me so pissed off that I went to the back room, got on the microphone and turned it to store announcements, and said in a very radio announcer type voice: “Good evening, shoppers, and welcome to Safeway. For your shopping convenience, we have extended sundown two more hours. Thank you for shopping Safeway, and have a nice day.”

I knew it was a matter of time before I would be called before the store manager, but I didn’t think it would be so fast. In the manager’s office were two ladies of this particular “sundown” religious persuasion, who, in no uncertain terms, expressed to the manager how they felt about my announcement.

I was told to apologize to these fine ladies of good social and religious standing and to follow it up with a written apology. I almost lost my job because of it, and possibly the only reason I didn’t was because the manager enjoyed my work and the positive way that I interacted with “most” of the customers.

Here’s another true story about the sundown worshipers. I knew this couple, Craig and Betty Durning, who owned this self-service Laundromat in Walla Walla, but who also charged for cleaning customers’ laundry (if the customer requested), and also had ironing services available.

One day, this lady brought in approximately 100 lbs. of laundry to be cleaned. Now, the owners didn’t have a delivery service. Since Betty, the shop’s co-owner, discovered she lived close to this lady, Betty asked if she could deliver the laundry to her door, at no extra charge, when it was all ready. They lady said “Yes, that’s very kind of you.”

Betty knocked on the door one Friday evening to deliver the laundry. The lady answered the door and refused to accept any of it because she just “didn’t do any business past sundown.” She didn’t tell Betty she was an Adventist and not to deliver it on Friday night.

Now, here’s Betty, doing what I would consider to be a loving Christian act – an act of kindness toward another – and this lady refuses to accept it. Betty told the lady that she didn’t need to pay her now; that the she could come by the shop next week and pay for the laundry. Still, she refused.

The Adventist church certainly does business on the Sabbath, you better believe it. Boy, they can really overflow those offering plates with money. But that’s okay, they say, because they’re doing the work of the Lord, so that makes it alright.

Now if your shitter, for example, gets plugged up on the Sabbath, and you are in desperate need of a plumber, and if the plumber fixes your problem right away, would that be considered a sinful act because it was done on the Sabbath?

And is the work that a plumber does, or any honest work or vocation that anyone performs for somebody else, any less holy then a preacher filling up his offering plates and his pockets... on the Sabbath?

What a crock of misguided, hypocritical, unholy bullshit. You might think that the few examples I just gave you were the exception. Not so. I grew up around this kind of behavior, hypocrisy and double-standard nature of the Adventist Church, and it didn’t take me long to get my fill.

Here’s another great one. Dad and Mom had become friends of another Adventist couple who were elderly – John and Mary Dune. They had a son, Franklin, who was in his early ‘30’s or so, who lived out of town and who had consciously chosen not to become a member of their Church.

John had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and apparently had only a few weeks to live. When Franklin heard of his father’s illness, he immediately came to his bedside to lend whatever comfort he could. The elders of the Church decided they too would gather at John’s bedside to pray for his healing.

Son Franklin, at his father’s side, in the room with the elders of the church, was then asked to leave the room while the elders prayed for John’s recovery. When Franklin asked why he couldn’t join them in prayer, the head elder spoke up, “We’re sorry, but since you are not a member of our church, we don’t allow you in our prayer meetings. You must leave now.” Franklin left. Within a week, John died.

Ever heard of the word excommunication? Sure you have. Well, when the Adventists do it, it’s called being defrocked. There was an Adventist Theologian by the name of Dr. Mark Goldsbury who was doing an in-depth study of the life and teachings of the Church’s prophet, Ellen G. White.

When he had finished his research and was ready to publish his results, the holy shit hit the fan. Dr. Goldsbury had taken exception to a number of Ellen G. Whites teaching’s, even challenging her authenticity as being the Church’s prophet. His research was well-documented and annotated, but it didn’t make any difference. He was defrocked. Front page news. Yeah.

One more story. I was about 12 when I witnessed this one. This one’s very typical of the Adventist mentality. There was this lady, Ann, who was an acquaintance of my parents. She was married, had a three-year old child, and worked at a local department store in downtown Walla Walla.

Now Ann didn’t have a particular religion of her own, she wasn’t raised with any, so she felt that her son, Nathan – in fact the whole family – should be exposed at least to some kind of religious education. Ann thought it would be good for her and the entire family. She chose to become a Catholic.

Now, there was this other lady, Jenny, who worked with Ann, who just happened to be an Adventist. When Jenny heard that Ann had joined the Catholic faith, she didn’t seem overly thrilled about it, but she kept it to herself, which was a surprise to me. Catholicism is one of the Adventists’ greatest nemesis.

Most Adventists would have gone ballistic and told Ann that the Catholic religion was the work of the devil, almost co-equal with the anti-Christ (whatever that means), and that they would pray for you to see the light, which translated into seeing it their way. I kid you not.

When Ann finally became baptized, a proud day for her, Jenny gave her this gift. As Ann opened up her present from Jenny, she noticed it was a book entitled The Desire of Ages, a book written by the prophet of the Adventist religion, Ellen G. White.

Ann politely said “thank-you” and was gracious enough to accept the book that was given to her by Jenny. Years later, Ann told me she almost gave it back. A gift, my holy ass. It was a slap in the fucking face, symbolic of the ole’ traditional Adventist put-down. Adventists’ were good at it.

If it had truly and sincerely been a gift, given to Ann from the heart, Jenny would have given her a gift that was religiously neutral, or at least a gift which reflected Ann’s religious beliefs. Jenny made it a point at work to always come off as though she were this very Christian lady- at least she talked a good game.

Now Christianity to me meant treating others the way you would like others to treat you, or something like that. It meant being kind, loving and good to another. Would Jenny have thought it Christian of Ann had Ann given Jenny a book about the Catholic faith? I don’t think so.

Actually, Jenny was a very unhappy person inside, using her Adventist faith as a front, a facade, to hide her inner insecurity. At work, Jenny was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, (Adventists had lot of ‘em), a back-biting, back-stabbing, gossiping individual.

My parents thought that Jenny’s gift was great. My Mother dogmatically said that it was the duty of every good Adventist to minister to all “those lost sheep who had lost their way and strayed from God and bring them back to the truth.” What she really meant was the path and that truth which was dictated by the Adventist religion.

I love my folks dearly, so don’t get me wrong. They had just allowed themselves to get sucked in and trapped (hook, line and sinker) by a very dogmatic, judgmental, “salvation based on fear” religion.

On occasion, when my parents were able to go beyond the Adventist dogma, they were very spiritual people, not religious, and I really loved and appreciated the purity of that spirit because it was real and genuine; a wisdom that came from deep within the heart.

The Adventist road to salvation wasn’t attainable simply because it was rooted only in the fear of God, so much as it was the fear of not being able to receive salvation and redemption because you weren’t certain whether you were measuring up to and abiding by the rigid standards and rules set by the Adventist church.

The thing was, no matter how hard you tried, you could never live up to the precepts of being a good Adventist; it was built into their system. You were bound to fail, bound to always be a sinner by definition. Only Jesus could save you, so long as you worshiped Him in the manner set forth by the Adventists.

I even remember my father coming unglued when John F. Kennedy was elected President. I remember him saying, “Michael, mark my words, this is the sign of the times, the beginning of the end of the world. Kennedy is a Catholic, and before we know it, the entire world will be controlled by Catholicism, one religion imposed on all of us by the Catholics.”

You don’t say?

Back to the gift. Could it be, and I ask you to reflect on this, that Jenny’s act of giving Ann a book written by Ellen G. White was closer to being anti-Christian (dare I say... anti-Christ, God forbid) then a true expression of kindness and friendship?

Adventists really loved to smother you with their particular “brand” of kindness...and religiosity. I saw it time and time again. I don’t know how many times the Adventists predicted the end of the world, but each time they were wrong. Duh.

Please don’t get me wrong. There were many in the Adventist tradition who were truly pure in heart, who would feed you when you were hungry, provide you shelter if you had none, and cloth you if you were destitute. These good, kind and loving souls would offer you friendship and comfort for friendship’s sake, unconditionally.

They would offer you the shirt off their back, and they would do it without looking for a ‘pat on the back,’ or a ‘thank you,’ and they did it not it in the name of God or in the name of the Adventist religion or any religion, for that matter. My parents belonged to this group of good people, when they weren’t busy being Adventists.

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