Surviving The Y2K Rapture & Other Nonsense

A radio evangelist predicted the Rapture would come this past Saturday and nothing happened. Not surprising. Several major conditions weren’t meant: the Bible haven’t been preached to every living person in the world (about seven billion or so) and Christians had to be feared, hated and put to death for who they are (except for China and the Middle East, this isn’t happening at all). Then the rapture will happen—or maybe not. Having survived the Y2K Rapture in 2000 and 2001, I’m skeptical whenever a religious authority or some other nut job proclaims the end of the world.

I was part of a church that spent nearly 30 years putting a church in every major city in every country of the world by the year 2000, which it did by planting over a hundred international churches during that time. Now everyone in the fellowship assumed that the Rapture would happen. The founder of the church made no Monty Python-esque ass trumpeting announcements of what would happen on January 1, 2000. What did happen? Nothing. Everything came and went as it usually does after the disco ball drops on Time Square in New York City. Not even the Y2K bug turned out to be that much of a big deal. Perhaps it was the wrong date since the new millennium didn’t start until January 1, 2001. A year later, nothing happened.

I noticed that the church message went from “being faithful to the end” to “being faithful to the end of your lifetime” a few months later. After 30 years of sacrificing to put a church in every major city of the world, the new message meant that the fellowship would have to continue sacrificing for another 30 or 40 years until they die. Some members didn’t like that. If the Rapture didn’t happen at the Millennium, it would never happen in their lifetime.

Wasn’t long before the church founder was tossed out by the narcissistic baby boomers who made up the church leadership. If he couldn’t deliver the Rapture (never mind that he never promised anyone the Rapture), he had no business leading the church. These 100 church plantings were soon torn apart by the infighting as the leadership couldn’t decide who among themselves was worthy enough to be the anointed one to lead God’s people, forming regional churches that no longer wanted to associate with each other and take up the cause to preach the Gospel to the world.

After 13 years of being in the church, and nearly six years of being out of the church, I have grown cynical about organized religion. Too often the leadership becomes committed to serving itself rather than meeting the needs of the fellowship. As one young minister told me on my last day with the church, the leadership had far more important priorities then helping me do well spiritually and left in a hurry to fetch a video projector for the lead evangelist. God knows that the salvation of that video projector was far more important. I had always considered the Rapture and/or Judgment Day to to be something of a crapshoot: you either roll a 7 or 11, or pull up snake-eyes. That never did sat well with the leadership. Then again, they never did like people who could make lemonade out of the lemons that God handed out in life with surprising regularity.

Why Is There A Coca-Cola Vending Machine In My Foyer?

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Last week I went downstairs to the foyer of my apartment building to check out the availability of the laundry room. I found a brand new Coca-Cola vending machine in the middle of the foyer. Like an alien artifact that had no business being there, I was somewhat mad to see this monstrosity here.

First, I’m a diehard Pepsi fan since the New Coke disaster in 1985 and would never go back to Coke. (I did try Kosher Coke when my friend brought a bottle over during Passover week, which was way too sweet of my taste.) I wouldn’t mind if it was a Pepsi vending machine. Not that I would buy from a vending machine. Pay $1.50 to $2.00 for an upscale drink in a 20-ounce bottle? No way. The local stores sell two-liter bottles for less than a dollar when on sale. A much better deal. Besides, most vending machines don’t stock caffeine-free Diet Pepsi in any sizes.

Second, it’s taking up floor space in an empty foyer that will make it difficult to move furniture out through that particular entrance. I’m sure the people with five parking spaces located out front will be happy not to find a U-Haul truck backed up in their spot on the weekends. On the other hand, this might discouraged those people who parked the U-Haul truck out back, move furniture through the foyer, and out to the smaller apartment buildings.

Third, the apartment complex must be hard up on cash since removing all the vending machines in 2007 after a series of caffeine-fueled graffiti incidents, leaving only the one at the swimming pool in a gated area. Bad enough that the rents went up by seven percent this year after staying flat for two years straight. Now they can earn an extra buck off of each beverage sold. I’m sure all the college students will enjoy having their favorite caffeine hit available within walking distance.

Then again, this isn’t the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen here. After one windy day blew in leaves and small branches from the outside, I stepped into the elevator to find a lizard trying very hard to blend in with the brown floor tile and hissing at my feet. He/she/it didn’t look like a happy camper.

Wild Hairs & Weird Haircuts

You know you’re getting old is when you have hair growing in—or out of—the weirdest places.  Unless the hair in question is sticking out of my nose, unusual never bothered me—until I got my haircut today.

I went into my usual hair saloon to request my usual number two cut on the sides and back, a round cut on the neck, and a quarter-inch off the top.  The Vietnamese woman cutting my hair asked about the half-inch scar on the back of my head. I was a five-year-old rocking back and forth while sitting on my father’s anvil when I fell backwards, hitting my head on the lawnmower blade, woke up entering the hospital with my parents, where a man in green scrubs lay me on the examination table to put me under, and I woke up in the recovery room with a Hell’s Angel biker handcuffed to the examination table, who look like he got into a knife fight and broke his arm.

The electric cutter suddenly took a dive into one ear and into the next ear, and the Yoda-like tuffs of ear hair vanished before I knew what was going on. When she asked if I wanted my eyebrows cut, I raised my eyebrows in surprise. No one has ever asked that question. My eyebrows weren’t hairy caterpillars that could jump off and attack someone. I’m not sure why she thought my eyebrows needed cutting since they looked fairly normal. I shook my head.  She finished the cut.

I haven’t had this much fun since I got a haircut at San Jose City College cosmetology department when the student cutting my hair nicked the back of one ear that blood tickled down my neck and she almost fainted. Or when another student almost drown me while washing my hair, which was the closest I ever came to being waterboarded. When you’re a cash-strapped college student and haircuts cost $3.50 USD, you can’t complain too much. When you’re an adult paying $15 USD (including tip) for a haircut, things shouldn’t get too weird.

Sprint Misplaced A Decimal Point

sprintlogoMy father had an interesting story about what happened to him this past weekend after making an electronic payment of $49.99 USD to Sprint for his cellphone bill. When he checked his checking account, he owed the bank $23,000 USD for covering a $49,990 USD overdraft by Sprint. He jawbones Sprint to get his money back. Now he’s arguing with the bank over a $30 USD overdraft charge for the regular phone bill that came in while his checking account was in the red. Bad enough that Sprint misplaced a decimal point, but why did the bank accept such an outrageous amount in the first place?

Updated 29 February 2007: Sprint still wants $49,990 USD from my father’s checking account by charging him for a second time. After another jawboning phone call where he got put on hold for a short 47 minutes before getting his money back, the bank was kind enough to let my father put a stop payment on the electronic payment without charging him for it. No wonder The New York Times is reporting that Sprint posted a $29.5 billion lost for the quarter. Senior citizens like my father won’t let them keep the extra change. The only reason why I don’t have problems with my Sprint account is that I still write paper checks for the utilities.

This Week’s Weird Snail Mail

I got a chain letter and a circular item in a square envelope in the snail mail this week.

This was the first time I ever got a chain letter in the mail. (I’ve gotten chain letters in email from people who clicked on the naughty bits and got a spyware infection on their computer.) This chain letter stated that you too can make $800,000 USD per week, as seen on the “Oprah!”, if you send a dollar bill to the following five people and add your name to the list. Yeah, right. Straight to the recycle bin. Although it’s bad luck to break a chain letter, I’m still working off all the bad luck from all the mirrors I accidentally broke as a teenager. The emails from a former Nigerian minister wanting my bank account info to smuggle a huge fortune out of his country are more entertaining than this.

The circular item in the square envelope was smaller than an LP record, larger than an 45 record, and too padded for a CD or DVD disc. The mysterious object was a mouse pad for subscribing to The New York Review of Books. Whoopee-a-do. The funny thing is that I don’t recognize a single literary author from the pencil drawings on the mouse pad. Although I took many literature courses during my first tour through college in the early 1990’s, I guess I missed the course on early 20th-century literary giants. You would think that the NYRB could update their pencil drawings to include latter 20th-century literary giants like, say, Stephen King.

Something About That Beard

Bearded Statuette Model I was coming home on the bus after working out at the gym and shopping at the grocery store. The bus trip takes about five minutes. Unfortunately, this particular bus trip was the longest five minutes in my life. A mostly bald gentleman with wispy sideburns and long hair at the base of his neck mentioned that I look like a rabbi with my long beard. That’s a strange comparison. Most people say I either look like a merchant marine or a Middle Eastern terrorist. This is the first time someone told me that I look like a rabbi.

I’m surprised that no one has ever said that I look like a Greek philosopher—or as Mel Brooks describes it, a professional BS artist—since I wear the beard without the mustache. A style I adopted during my first tour through college in the early 1990’s, which suited my facial features better as I started working at the gym and trimming down five years ago.

With the passing of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, some people—mostly members of a Christian non-denominational church I belonged to until a few years ago—would come up to me to say that I looked like a terrorist and asked if I was planning to blow something up. They were joking around. I gave them a serious response that made some run away screaming: “No, but if I do, you will be the first to know.”

The gentleman on the bus may have been a professional BS artist himself as he expounded on how rabbis maintain their beards in Old Testament and New Testament times, how beards never go out of style, and, of course, women always love bearded men. When I got up to get off at my bus stop, he encouraged me to read a few pages of the Old Testament every day. An odd conversation. It never occurred to me until later that he might be Jewish. Most American Christians tend to forget that Jesus was a Jewish carpenter.

I think I learned more than I wanted to know about beards in those five minutes. Since I’m the only student in my ceramics class with a beard, I’d created a small statuette of a human face with a beard in the classical style. This is in preparation for the larger-than-life self-portrait bust that I’ll be completing for the class final.