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Posted on 2004-10-26 01:13:43 by Denver

The Deist

Instead of attending twelve o'clock service at Emmanuel Baptist Church I am lying in bed reading the New York Times. Instead of singing to the Lord with a Black gospel choir whose voices truly soar to the Heavens I am parsing through the week in review. Instead of listening to allegorical tales that might reflect on my own spiritual condition I am reading an interview with President George W. Bush following his speech at a nuclear power facility in Tennessee.

NYT Reporter: Mr. President...there's been a suggestion from the Kerry
camp today that this administration is actually responsible for fueling
the recruitment of al Qaeda through some of its policies, particularly,
they didn't say this directly, but the war in Iraq. Your response?

Bush: Yeah, it's a fundamental misunderstanding of the war on terror.
It's a ridiculous notion to assert that because the United States is on
the offense, more people want to hurt us. We're on the offense because
people do want to hurt us.

After I finish a long article on the obesity epidemic in America, I take my clothes to the Laundromat in Clinton Hill. Once my clothes are in the machine I try to read the Economist but I become distracted by a tall, slender young white woman who is sorting her underwear on a nearby table. She is wearing a tight black tank top and a long green army-navy skirt and appears to be fresh out of some privileged liberal arts college existence. She reminds me of longhaired Chico girls in tye dyed skirts dancing and smoking weed at Mother Hips concerts. Suddenly she turns and I hide behind my magazine. She approaches and stops within three feet of my chair and then I hear this voice-

"Did you go to the Yale school of drama?"

Her name is Lindsey Gallo and she was a theater major at Yale who graduated in 2000 and used to go to the cabaret where I used to perform. She is a member of the Bahai Church. Actually they don't have a church, she says, they have a community center in Manhattan where they meet every nineteen days. She says they believe in world unity and the fundamental harmony of science and religion. She is a vegetarian, non-drinking, actor and waitress. Though she has lived in Clinton Hill several years she is surprised that I consider it the best neighborhood in the city and doesn't seem to know many of the restaurants or bars. She lives alone in a studio and travels the world on business related to her religious practice.
Recalling the time she had lived in Israel she remembered how dispiriting it was that so much of the society had become secular. After she recommends a yoga studio in the neighborhood we exchange emails and make tentative plans to go dancing some time in the future. That night as I lay in bed I think about her, ten years my junior and lacking in the kind of sophisticated sexual desires that older woman can articulate. I cannot imagine dancing with her. I cannot imagine her telling me she wants it from behind or even that she wants it badly.
She is operating on a different plane of existence. Part of me wants to join her, is attracted to her integrity, but she remains too abstract and I know that I will probably never contact her.

After my computer warms up I delete all the junk out of my inbox and click
on the NY Times sports section. There is an article on my favorite football player - ex-San Francisco 49ers receiver Terrell Owens.

"Team officials opened The Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday to a headline that said: "Terrell Owens Dances Around Questions About Sex." The headline refers to a question-and-answer article in the September issue of Playboy magazine. The interviewer stated that Jeff Garcia, the former San Francisco quarterback with whom Owens had a contentious relationship, has "denied media rumors he's gay." Owens was then asked, "What do you think?"
Owens replied: "Like my boy tells me: 'If it looks like a rat and smells
like a rat, by golly, it is a rat.'"
He was also critical of the lack of individuality and personality in the
league, saying players were "almost like slaves, like robots." He stood by those remarks Tuesday.
"My grandmother raised me to be honest," Owens said. "She told me not to lie. There's no such thing as borderline lying. I'm not a politician. I'm
not going to play to the media. My thing is, it's honesty first. If people
don't like it they don't like it. I'm still going to be myself, regardless."

I click on the obituaries.

Rick James, the unabashedly bawdy funk-rock pioneer who had a run of hits, including "Super Freak," from the late 1970's to the mid-80's, died
yesterday. He was fifty-six. With tight, swaggering grooves and a leering stage persona that was unrivaled even in the age of Prince and George Clinton, Mr. James was one of the biggest stars of the post-disco era. His hits were paeans to debauchery and the women who made it possible.
"She's a very kinky girl," he sang in a salacious whine in "Super Freak,"
"the kind you don't take home to mother."
Mr. James's career hit its lowest point in the eighties with a series of
drug-related misadventures that eventually landed him in jail. In an
incident that was reported widely by the news media, he set himself on
fire with a crack pipe. In an interview with The New York Times in 1998,
he expressed regret over his dissolute ways but also a sense of amazement at the unfettered indulgence that had been a part of his life for so long.
"I had always been a free spirit," he said, "and always gotten what I

I am going on my fourth date with Cecile. She has invited me to a Vibe magazine party in Manhattan at the club Eugene on 24th St in Chelsea. A poster plastered to our Clinton/Washington subway platform features headshots of the Fox newscasters Hume, Smith, O'Reilly, Hannity, a weaselish looking guy named Colmes, and Greta Van Sustern,- it has only been up a couple of days and already it has been decorated with black 666 tattoos on each of the commentator's foreheads along with an RNC protest sticker across O'Reilly's mouth. I ride the C train with a twenty-something black man with a doo rag stretched over his skull and a gold medallion around his neck. His young white female companion has an ipod connected to her ears. At the High street platform a man walks onto the train carrying his little boy in his arms- the boy's curly brown mop resting peacefully on his father's shoulder.

I have never read Vibe magazine but it usually features 50 Cent, Snoop, Nelly, and other hip hop hitmakers. I am looking forward to the music- hoping they might play R. Kelly. All I really want is to be wrapped up in a musical cocoon with Cecile on the dance floor.

We agreed to meet at 9pm and I arrive on time and wait on the sidewalk, dawdling and studying the crowd. They are patting down everyone going into the club, presumably looking for weapons or drugs. Twenty minutes pass and I check my watch. She's never been this late. Ten minutes later she and her friends pull up in a cab. We speed through the line and do not receive the pat down at the door - inside there is a crush of people- four or five hundred black people and about seven whiteys. Cecile introduces me to some of her co-workers- but it is too loud and too crowded to have a conversation. After a couple of drinks she pulls me close and we dance to a series of hits from Hot 97. I very self-consciously slide my ass up and down against a pillar while my hands tentatively clutch her back. Three big bald black guys watch us. An eighteen-year old hip hop singer named Ciara prances out on the stage with some backup singers that look like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Her song, "Goodies", is about abstinence but the lyrics are mostly unintelligible and overshadowed by her grinding sexual gestures. A fashion show follows with bare-chested, muscular, gay men strutting down the runway in button up sweaters, baseball caps, and knit pullover hats. Then a shirtless black man with a goatee and a huge gut strides onstage and belts out some hip hop verse. Someone in the crowd says his name is 'Tomahawk'. Cecile pulls me close and shouts over the din - "I'm not like those other black girls you've dated."

"Why's that?" I scream.

"Well," she yells, "have any of those other girls taken you to a party
like this?"

Leslie, Pamela, Patty, Lisa, Cheyney. No other black woman I've ever
dated worked in advertising. They wouldn't have been invited to these

"I guess not."

"Do you know what I'm saying?"

"I don't know."

"I'm not a dark skinned white woman."

What does she mean by this? She thinks I think she is one of those. A black woman who predominantly hangs out with white people.

"I go to these things all the time. We're always getting invited."

"That's cool" I shout.

"The last one was terrible. But Puff Daddy was there. He walked right by
me. My friend pinched his ass."

"Oh." Later we are practicing "the bubble"- a Jamaican dance maneuver that involves creating an air pocket between two bellies.

"Do you ever wear cologne?" she asks. I sniff myself, trying to detect an odor.

"No. Where I come from it's considered."

"Cheesy?" she asks. I cringe at this word, and she continues, "I like it. I like scents."

"Uh huh."

"You've never dated anyone like me, have you?"


"I don't have any white friends." she yells, "These are my friends."
She motions toward three of her girlfriends at the bar, and then sighs loudly and with a heavy element of lament, adds - "We just don't run in the same circles."

"Yeah," I struggle to make a connection, "well, New York is really.segregated."

"Why are you telling me that?"

"Cause it is."

"You don't need to tell me that. I know that. (she makes a face and then
imitates a white person's accent-) "New York is really segregated."

My eyes widen and I look down, speechless with surprise and humiliation.

Later we take a cab to Junnos for a nightcap. The karaoke is set up and
I sing "Raspberry Beret" to a disinterested audience of ten. Cecile won't
sing. On the television screen above the bar James McGreevey, the governor of New Jersey is speaking at a news conference. Junno tells everyone to shut up and turns up the volume.
McGreevey is announcing his resignation as governor because he had
an adulterous homosexual affair and will step down to avoid accusations
that could compromise his office. It dawns on me that the governors of the two richest states in the nation have resigned in disgrace in the past six months.

Today at work Rachel asks me to help her with some filing and lingers in
my cubicle far longer than she has ever dared before. I think our lunch hour trip to the Museum of Television and Radio last week (we viewed an episode of The Jeffersons) had a very beneficial effect on our friendship. I still have not really broached the subject of religion with her beyond a disagreement about the historical accuracy of Mel Gibson's recent filmic portrait of Jesus Christ. Yesterday I dropped a printout on her desk - the description of a book on Amazon.com- "Defeating Darwinism" - a paean to her fundamentalist Christian scriptural beliefs.
At noon I receive an email from her.

"Are you planning to purchase the book you were viewing on Amazon?"

"Yes" I reply.

There is no response so I walk over to her cubicle.

"I read the introduction to the book on the web." I say.

"Oh yeah. Was it interesting?"

"Of course. According to the book you are a theist, and I am a deist. That means you believe God not only created the universe but he also controls every system and action that happens throughout its history. Whereas a deist, like me, believes that God created the Universe and the system of Life but we also believe in the evolution of species and scientific principles of cause and effect."

She looks at me smugly and says nothing. She doesn't give a hoot about
these definitions.

"What does the author believe?"

"I don't think he believes that humans evolved from creatures that swam in the sea."

"Then I'll read the book and we can talk about it."

"Great." I say and start to walk away.

"Denver." I turn around and she smiles and says, "God made us."

Her ideological stubbornness bothers me but I order the book anyway. And I think about obdurate, Godless New York City women hustling on and off the subway and the spiritual grace of the Citigroup secretary sitting twenty feet away. My soul? My conscience? Something is wrestling with the logical contradictions of science and faith, rationality and belief. But in the wafer thin moments of my day when I have her full attention and I want to make sense of the divide between us, and I am wracked with a fully loaded need to explain my interior doubt about it all - it is her smile that absolves.
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